Skip to Main Content
Railroad News

Girl Brain-Damaged in CSX Crossing Collision Loses Split Appellate Decision

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(Columbia, South Carolina – July 28, 2012)

Although seriously jeopardized by one judge’s dissent, a South Carolina Court of Appeals Wednesday affirmed an earlier decision by a trial court that a girl who was 12 years old when she suffered brain damage due to a car driven by her mother colliding with a CSX train consisting of two locomotives and 76 cars and travelling at 41 mph at the dangerous, unguarded crossing of Hill Road and CSX railroad tracks in Hampton County, SC on February 2, 2004 was not entitled to compensation.

The crash injured Tonia Colvin and her boyfriend, but the most seriously injured was her daughter Lillian Colvin, now 20, who had to be placed into a medically-induced coma, and a hole drilled into her skull to relieve pressure on her brain. Four years after the accident, Lillian ”continued to suffer from severe intellectual, behavioral and physical impairments” from the accident.

Plaintiff’s attorney Johnny Parker, representing Willie Homer Stephens, representative for the injured youth, argued that defendant CSX had erred through not following a South Carolina law that required activation of the train’s horn at least 1,500 feet in advance of a grade crossing, when the train’s event recorder showed the horn did not sound until the locomotive was 1,161 feet from the Hill Road crossing, which had no more than a standard, passive railroad crossbuck as protection, lacking completely any active protective equipment such as flashing lights, bells or crossing gates. In addition, attorneys contended that CSX had failed to remove vegetation and trees near the crossing which obscured the driver’s view of the train.

The South Carolina DOT was also a defendant due to contentions that SCDOT had not inspected the crossing, and that both the crossing sign and the stop line were incorrectly placed.

Appeal Judge Paul Short was a dissenter among the three-judge panel, saying that the original trial court had committed various missteps.

“We agree with Judge Short’s dissent and believe that certain errors which occurred during the trial warranted a new trial,” said attorney Parker, adding that his next step would be an appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court.


Railroad News


Train crash cases are unique and complex with many different potential pitfalls, such as federal preemption. Anytime I get hired or even get a call from a train crash victim, my very first call is to Nathan’s firm. Nathan’s knowledge and experience in handling and trying cases against these litigation savvy railroad companies gives me the confidence to know that the clients and cases I refer to him are getting the best of the best.

James Perrin Lubbock, Texas

I have had the opportunity to work as co-counsel with Nathan on several railroad crossing accidents cases. In each case, Nathan always possessed an incredible knowledge of the law and the facts, possessed a great talent for aggressive - strategic legal planning and trial tactics while, at the same time, displaying great skill as an effective negotiator. I would recommend him to anyone without hesitation.

Scott McCluen Harriman, Tennessee

Nathan Karlin has my strongest endorsement in the field of railroad crossing cases and personal injury law. I had the pleasure of working with Nathan in a complex railroad personal injury case. I was impressed by Nathan’s knowledge, his work ethic, and his dedication to the client. I look forward to working with Nathan on future injury matters. I am also aware firsthand that he has obtained excellent trial and settlement results in numerous cases involving members of the public harmed by railroad companies.

Joseph M. Miller Mandeville, Louisiana

Nathan is a warrior fighting the railroads. As a fellow personal injury lawyer, I have constantly been impressed with his depth of knowledge and his capabilities from case to case. I’d take him into battle with me any day against the biggest railroads and insurance companies on the planet.

Jon C. Clark Austin, Texas

Bob Pottroff has fought for the victims of the railroads’ callous disregard for safety more than any other attorney that I know. I should know because I am currently Chair-elect of the Railroad Section of ATLA.

Robert Schuetze Boulder, Colorado

Mr. Pottroff has shaken the rail industry to its very roots. Settlements are now more common as a result of the way he has exposed the industry’s wrongdoing.

Mike Easley Arkansas

Bob Pottroff’s work in railroad safety law is unmatched and he has been the source of great advice and phenomenal creativity.

Roger Brown Jefferson City, Missouri

In addition to his substantive contributions to railroad grade crossing safety, I have personally observed his untiring efforts and contributions to improving the integrity of the legal system.

Elizabeth Hardy Lake Charles, Louisiana

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8