CONFIDENTIAL SETTLEMENT Brett Prettyman and James H. Scott v. BNSF Railway Company
These cases involved events surrounding an incident which occurred on May 12, 2010 near Thermopolis, Wyoming. Our clients, Brett Prettyman and James Scott were operating a train through the Wind River Canyon when as they rounded a curve they came across a large boulder that had fallen onto the tracks. There was not enough time to stop. The train then derailed sliding down a steep bank into the river. The cab quickly filled with water, and the men almost drowned trying to escape. We obtained videos from the lead locomotive and from the trailing unit showing the actual collision and these are now available on you tube. Both men were severely injured and both have had spine surgeries. Both also suffer from PTSD and neither will be able return to work at the railroad.
At the time, a sheriff on the other side of the river on the highway noticed the large boulder and called BNSF to report it shortly before the accident. BNSF did not have radio capability in the canyon. Therefore, the Conductor and Engineer could not be warned by radio. In addition, the canyon is in “dark territory” with no signals, and is so inaccessible that even a flagman is not able to enter and give a warning. We obtained the radio transmission tapes from the dispatcher, and determined quite a bit of time was spent by the dispatcher trying to find out the exact location. Ultimately, both men had to remain outdoors in the rainy and cold canyon for over an hour, wet and freezing, before rescue due to BNSFs inability respond.
Through pretrial discovery proceedings, we discovered that BNSF has experienced several other rock falls in this area. Following our discovery of all of this evidence of negligence, BNSF could no longer seriously go forward with their “it was an unforeseeable act of God” defense. We were able to obtain record confidential settlements for both men.