Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Plaintiff wins wrongful death action against railroad -- 9th Cir. reverses because of evidentiary issues

A truck driver was killed when a train hit his truck as he was crossing railroad tracks on a gravel road that led from the highway to a grain elevator. In a wrongful death and survivorship action, a jury awarded the plaintiff over $6 1/2 million.

The defendant railroad appealed, raising a number of issues about evidentiary rulings. Did the district court err in excluding evidence and testimony about the angle at which the truck approached the tracks? (This would make a difference in comparative negligence.) Did the district court err in excluding the defense's proferred expert economist who would have disputed the plaintiff's expert's testimony concerning hedonic damages? (The judge thought that the second expert's testimony was only for the purpose of attacking the ruling that the first expert's testimony was admissible.)

The 9th Cir. reversed and remanded for a new trial. Dorn v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Co., 397 F.3d 1183 (9th Cir. Feb. 7, 2005), Find Result

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