Was Richard Herr’s workplace shooting spree at an Amtrak maintenance facility in April 1997 a “foreseeable catastrophe” that could have been prevented if Amtrak management had heeded the warning signs of imminent violence? Or was it a bizarre, out-of-character event that no one could possibly predict?

Those questions are at the heart of a civil case that goes to trial in U.S. District Court this morning in which the widow of a man killed by Herr is blaming Amtrak for its role in making the workplace unsafe.