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Name and title: Robert N. Gentile, vice president-law, general counsel, secretary Age: 52 Train wreck: On Sept. 22, 1993, Transtar Inc. General Counsel Robert Gentile awoke to news of an Amtrak train derailment near Mobile, Ala. When he heard the location, Gentile turned off his radio alarm and drifted back to sleep. He groggily assured himself that none of his company’s railroad subsidiaries had trains running on those tracks. That would be the last restful moment Gentile would enjoy for a long time. When he got to his office in suburban Pittsburgh, Gentile already had several messages about the accident. He learned that the derailment occurred after a railroad bridge was struck by barges being pushed by the Mauvilla, a towboat owned by Transtar subsidiary Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co. (W&G). Amtrak’s Miami-bound Sunset Limited train leapt off the damaged bridge and plunged into a bayou, killing 47 and injuring 103 passengers and crew. After the accident, W&G, Amtrak and CSX Transportation Inc., the owner of the tracks, were hit with more than 100 wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits. All three defendants shared some responsibility for the disaster, said Gentile, but there was little doubt about W&G’s liability. A National Transportation Safety Board inquiry found that the Mauvilla’s pilot became lost and disoriented in dense early morning fog, and blamed W&G for failing to ensure his competency in radar navigation. Dual track: According to Gentile, Transtar avoided its own litigation train wreck thanks to a supportive insurance company and two outside law firms. After some initial “fussing” about coverage, said Gentile, W&G’s carrier, Steamship Mutual Underwriting Association, “got behind us and stayed behind us.” Gentile and Steamship Mutual decided to hire separate firms to handle litigation and negotiation issues. While New Orleans’ Terriberry, Carroll & Yancey prepared for trial, Armbrecht Jackson of Mobile set about settling cases. According to Gentile, this dual track “allowed settlement counsel to display compassion to families of victims in a way that it would not have been [possible] if they were trial counsel.” Honesty proved to be the best settlement policy. “Our pilot made an error,” said Gentile. “It would have been wrong and counterproductive to deny that we had made a mistake.” Today, all of the suits against W&G have been resolved, all but “seven or eight” in pretrial settlements, Gentile said. Citing confidentiality agreements, Gentile would not disclose the individual settlement amounts, but he said that the total payout is in the $50 million range. Organization: Transtar, a wholly owned subsidiary of United States Steel Corp., owns eight rail and barge companies that transport raw material and finished products for the steelmaker and other industrial customers. Transtar’s firms include the Birmingham Southern Railroad Co. and the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway Co. With 1,500 employees nationwide, Transtar and its subsidiaries report annual gross revenue of more than $200 million. Gentile’s job: Gentile supervises attorney Chris Como and a secretary in Transtar’s law office, and six nonlawyers in the claims department. Gentile reviews contracts and helps negotiate major commercial transactions, consults on labor negotiations and oversees outside litigation counsel. Securities and Exchange Commission filings and other public company matters are handled by parent U.S. Steel. Litigation: Transtar and its subsidiaries have a docket of about 1,900 personal injury and property damage cases, said Gentile. About 70% of the caseload are work injury claims filed by rail workers under the Federal Employees Liability Act and by shipping industry workers filing under the Jones Act. About 250 cases are in active litigation or negotiation at any time, said Gentile. Many of the dormant cases are asbestos suits that are administratively dismissed pending plaintiffs’ development of asbestos-related symptoms, he explained. Reorganization: Gentile was hired by Transtar in 1988, shortly after U.S. Steel sold a 51% stake in its subsidiary to the Blackstone Group, a New York-based investment firm. In 2001, Gentile helped negotiate and structure Transtar’s reorganization as a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. Steel. This transaction, almost two years in the making, involved giving Blackstone complete ownership of four former Transtar subsidiaries: the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad Co., Duluth Missabe & Iron Range Railway Co., Pittsburgh & Conneaut Dock Co. and USS Great Lakes Fleet Inc. As part of the deal, Transtar is contractually committed to represent the spun-off Blackstone companies on an “at cost” basis. The 2001 reorganization has not resolved Transtar’s status in the U.S. Steel corporate family. “Our companies are being looked at very carefully for retention or sale, so everything we do as lawyers proceeds from the mindset that we may be sold, or certain assets may be sold,” said Gentile. Principal outside counsel: Gentile relies primarily on the Pittsburgh office of Reed Smith for corporate work. He uses several firms nationwide to handle personal injury defense, including Armbrecht Jackson; Dickie McCamey & Chilcote of Pittsburgh; Burr & Forman of Birmingham, Ala.; Gessler Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym of Chicago; and Baughman & Associates of Cleveland. Iron city inhabitant: The Pittsburgh native has a double degree from the University of Pittsburgh, graduating with a B.A. in rhetoric and argument in 1973, and a J.D. in 1976. After law school, Gentile worked one year for a former solo practitioner in a suburban shopping mall and two years for a personal injury defense lawyer. In 1979, he went in-house at the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad Co., then a U.S. Steel subsidiary. He joined Transtar in 1988, and became general counsel within a year. Family: Gentile, who is divorced, has six children: Anthony, 23, who works for U.S. Steel; Justin, 19, and Elizabeth, 18, students at Duquesne University; Mary, 16, Theresa, 15, and Charles, 12. Last book read: Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball, by Stefan Kanfer. Last movie seen: Basic.

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