The one year anniversary of the most deadly Metro-North crash ever has just passed. The crash involved a Metro-North train hitting an SUV stopped at a railroad crossing in Westchester County. The SUV driver, Ellen Brody, was hit around 6:30 p.m. by a train carrying 800 passengers. At the time of the accident, the train was traveling at 58 mph, well under the set 70 mph speed limit. The train’s engineer wasn’t able to stop in time. The accident killed Brody and five passengers on board the train.
Now, the family of the deceased driver is suing Metro-North, the State of New York, Westchester County, and the town of Mount Pleasant for negligence and wrongful death.
“The accident happened because the railroad crossing is a dangerous crossing that should have been eliminated,” said Philip Russotti, the family’s attorney, said. “The signage is inadequate and confusing. The accident was caused by a confluence of problems, none of which were her fault. She was a victim.”
An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) showed the Brody wasn’t familiar with the railroad crossing, which is located at a curved road. Witnesses reported that Brody appeared to have stopped at the crossing for about 30 seconds before the accident. According to the investigation, the rail crossing “gates came down on top of Brody’s vehicle, which was stopped on the tracks. The driver got out to look at the rear of the car, then she got back in and drove forward and was stuck.”
Philip Russotti said that Brody was trapped on the tracks because the traffic light on the other side of the crossing, at the intersection of Commerce Street and Taconic State Parkway, was red. This prevented her from moving into the intersection, out of the train’s way. “The accident was caused by her not realizing she was at a railroad crossing,” said Russotti. “That light should have been green and she shouldn’t have been on the track,” Russotti said. “She was in that situation through no fault of her own.” Families of victims who died in the crash have also pursued claims. None of their cases have named Ellen Brody as a responsible defendant for the crash.
The Brody family’s suit outlines many alleged safety failures that lead to the accident. The suit claims that a combination obstructive buildings, bad lighting, and over-grown vegetation at and around the intersection affected Brody’s view of the crossing and its signage. Russotti also said that the traffic light at the intersection should have also been synced with the train signal. Russotti hopes that this wrongful death claim will help “Eliminate the safety problems of railroad crossings.”
NTSB Investigation Findings to Be Released Later in the Year
In December, the NTSB released about 1,000 pages of investigation documents related to this crash. A final report with recommendations is expected later in the year. State and local transportation officials have said they’ll wait for the NTSB report before deciding to make any changes to the Commerce Street railroad crossing.
If you or a loved one are ever involved in a train accident, don’t hesitate to contact Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP. We can help put together a strong case to help you pursue the maximum settlement amount. Call us today at (212) 986- 7353.