(Midland, Texas – November 26, 2012)
Speculation as to which entities may find themselves defendants, as well as plaintiffs, in anticipated legal actions involving the November 15 Midland, Texas wounded veterans “Show of Support” parade train accident has begun to surface as the fatal victims’ funerals are conducted and the injured slowly recover from both the mental and physical trauma they endured.
In an article in Monday’s edition of the Midland Reporter-Telegram, staff writer Joe Basco explored the potential parties who may or may not find themselves involved in the legal process as the National Transportation Safety Board continues the lengthy investigation which may take as long as a year to see a completion and publication of its findings.
Meanwhile, as Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter observes, “Anyone can sue anyone.”
Kevin Glasheen, a highly successful Lubbock, TX-based personal injury attorney who has teamed with railroad accident attorney Bob Pottroff of Manhattan, KS to represent two of the injured survivors of the wounded warriors parade train accident. These victims, Sgt. Richard Sanchez and his wife, Heather, were interviewed for the article. Partially paralyzed and facing a lengthy recovery, Sgt. Sanchez was able to finally move the five toes of his foot Sunday, but still cannot walk.
While Glasheen feels that “The city probably won’t get sued, but the damages awarded would be significantly less if they did,” pointing out that “sovereign immunity” protects local, state and federal government from lawsuits. However, in Texas, the “Texas Tort Claims Act” makes three exceptions to the rule, one of them the use of a motor-driven vehicle. He also felt Union Pacific might go after every party involved in the incident, including the city of Midland in order to “lessen the amount of blame on Union Pacific.”
Midland City Attorney Keith Stretcher refused to comment on any possibility of the city being sued for liability in the Midland parade train accident. The provision of Midland Police officers and Midland County Sheriff’s deputies as parade escorts could potentially put both entities in jeopardy of a suit.
However, Houston-based injury attorney Brian Beckcom of the firm of Vujasinovic and Beckcom said that if he was working on the case “I would not sue the police.” But he pointed out that in terms of traffic accidents, negligence potentially applies to everyone, which could make the entities that provided the police escorts’ responsible parties.
The Midland Reporter-Telegram has already filed Freedom of Information Act requests with both the city and county for “any documents that authorized local law enforcement officers to participate in the parade detail,” as well as copies of previous years’ “Show of Support” parade permits. Under the law, the governmental units have 10 days from the November 20 filing date to comply with the newspaper’s request.