A railroad will pay $1.25 million to the family of an 18-year-old man who was killed four years ago when his truck was struck by a freight train at a crossing in Plainfield.
The settlement was announced by the Reardon Law Firm of New London. The plaintiffs were represented by attorneys Robert Reardon Jr., Joseph Barnes and Kelly Reardon. The Providence & Worcester Railroad (P&W) was represented by the Boston firm of Flynn & Wirkus.
On Sept. 9, 2009, at 7:45 a.m., Rick Cima Jr. had just left his home on his way to work when his pickup truck was broadsided by a P&W freight train at the Lillibridge Road crossing in Plainfield. Though there were bells and warning lights at the crossing, the plaintiffs’ attorneys said there were no gates, even though the crossing is in a residential area, and Cimas and more than 50 other families were required to cross these tracks daily.
The Reardon attorneys obtained a court order for the railroad to produce the “black box” aboard the train at the time of the accident. The data recorded was analyzed by experts, who determined the train was traveling over the speed limit before the accident. Additionally, the black box did not show that the train had sounded its horn before reaching the crossing. The railroad claimed the black box malfunctioned and the engineer had, in fact, sounded the horn.
Robert Reardon also said there was evidence the contractor hired by Providence & Worcester to remove vegetation did not clear the area near the crossing as scheduled in May 2009. Federal law requires annual trimming.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys said that these types of grade crossings—where train tracks directly intersect with a roadway instead of passing over or under the road surface—are especially dangerous “in the densely populated state of Connecticut.”
“The Reardon Law Firm has resolved two tragic cases involving grade rail crossings in Connecticut in the last five years, one in Waterford in which a grandmother and two small children died, and now this one, involving the death of an 18-year-old young man,” Robert Reardon said. “The time has come for the state and federal government to mandate the elimination of grade crossings in residential areas.”
The settlement was reached through mediation directed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Holly Fitzsimmons in Bridgeport.•