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SEPTA has reached a $5 million settlement agreement with the estate of a 36-year-old employee who was killed in 2002 when a freight train slammed into the bucket he was using to reach electrical lines over the tracks at Neshaminy Falls station. A Philadelphia judge approved the parties’ agreement last month and last week ordered the establishment of a trust to hold and administer $3 million of the settlement for the employee’s 2-year-old daughter. Lawyers representing the estate believe the agreement to be the largest settlement of a wrongful death case brought under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act on behalf of a sole minor beneficiary. The estate of Vincent Andrews, who was an electrical lineman for SEPTA, will receive $300,000, according to the allocation order by Orphans Court Administrative Judge Joseph D. O’Keefe. The rest of the settlement money, about $1.7 million in attorneys’ fees and costs, will go to the law firm of Kessler Cohen & Roth, whose lawyers represented the estate with a Florida law firm, Gary Williams Parenti Finney Lewis McManus Watson & Sperando. “Mr. Andrews was a very valued employee,” said Dolores Rocco Kulp, counsel for the SEPTA. “His death was a tragic loss for SEPTA and his family.” Kulp declined to comment further yesterday on settlement details. Although the agreement releases all the defendants in Andrews v. CSX Transportation Inc. from liability, the plaintiff reached the agreement with SEPTA alone, said an attorney for the Andrews estate, Stewart L. Cohen of Kessler Cohen & Roth. SEPTA has not waived its right to seek contribution from another railroad that it believes to be responsible. The transit agency continues to litigate with the other corporate defendant in the case, CSX Transportation Inc., which owned and operated the freight train that hit Andrews in the early morning hours of March 28, 2002. Kulp, an attorney at Kolber Freiman, said she would not elaborate on the status of the CSX litigation because a number of motions are currently pending, including motions from CSX for contractual indemnity and motions from SEPTA regarding its immunity. John J. Barrett Jr., who represents CSX with other Saul Ewing attorneys, said the railroad was not a part of the settlement because it believes SEPTA alone was responsible for the accident. Andrews’ estate brought the lawsuit against the defendants under the state wrongful death and survivor statutes and FELA. Lawyers argued in court documents that a SEPTA supervisor had failed to ensure that trains would not pass through the area where Andrews and others were working on the R3 West Trenton Line in Bucks County the night of the accident. This failure violated railroad and other regulations, the plaintiff claimed. Andrews was told it was clear for him to use a lift attached to a truck to suspend himself over the tracks and work on overhead electrical wires – which he did. A CSX train approached, making its scheduled run, but did not slow down as it approached the work crew until the engineer was close enough to see exactly what the bucket over the tracks was, according to the plaintiff’s complaint. Lawyers contended that the CSX engineer should have slowed the train when he saw lights on the tracks that he could not identify, according to the complaint. FELA was enacted in 1908 to protect and compensate railroad workers injured on the job due to negligence on behalf of the railroad, but the statute limits the damages that a minor beneficiary can recover in these cases. That means the damages available to Andrews’ young daughter in court would have been limited to the present value of the support and benefits Andrews would have provided her until she was grown – instead of the increased value the support would have gained were it paid out over a longer period of time. The child’s mother, Keisha Stroud of Mount Laurel, N.J., never wed Andrews, and, therefore, was not a beneficiary in the lawsuit, Cohen said. The estate claimed it was entitled to damages for Andrews’ pain and suffering. Testimony during the discovery process revealed that Andrews’ co-workers called up to warn him about the approaching train, which Andrews saw coming, Cohen said. Andrews tried to move his bucket away from the train’s path, Cohen said. “He almost made it.” Lawyers stressed Andrews’ fear of the impact and suffering in the seconds before and after the train hit him. The blow ripped the bucket from the truck and knocked Andrews to the ground, killing him instantly, Cohen said. “We’re only talking about seconds here,” Cohen said. “But we were able, through the settlement process, to demonstrate how significant it was and come to what we believe was a fair settlement for the child.” Joel S. Rosen of Kessler Cohen worked with Cohen on the case. Counsel for the estate at the firm of Gary Williams Parenti Finney Lewis McManus Watson & Sperando in Stuart, Fla., are Willie E. Gary and Sekou M. Gary. Kim D. Fetrow of Heckscher Teillon Terrill & Sager will handle the details of setting up the trust for Andrews’ daughter in New Jersey, Cohen said.

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