No Retrial in California Amtrak Deaths


RENO, Nev. (CN) – A Nevada trucking company will not get a retrial of a federal jury’s $4.6 million judgment against for the 2011 truck-train collision that killed six people riding Amtrak’s California Zephyr.
     The jury awarded $4.6 million in damages in September 2014 after a federal study showed a worker for John Davis Trucking, of Battle Mountain, Nev., disabled the truck’s anti-lock braking system for its trailer, did not properly adjust brakes, used improperly matched brake components and that most of its brake-drum surfaces were worn beyond service limits at the time of the deadly collision.
     Three weeks later, John Davis Trucking filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law, or retrial, saying the court improperly allowed damaging testimony and other evidence that swayed the jury.
     U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben rejected the motion on Monday.
     “A legally sufficient basis existed for the jury’s verdicts. The verdicts were not contrary to the clear weight of the evidence, the damages were reasonable and supported by the evidence, and there is no basis for concluding that the jury was presented with false or perjurious evidence,” McKibben wrote.
     John Davis Trucking’s motion for retrial mostly consisted of arguments already raised, repeatedly, in some instances, and those not already addressed are not supported by law or facts, McKibben wrote.
     The trucking company claimed that the court rejected proposed instructions on activation failure, did not provide proper instruction on the commercial driver’s license manual not constituting a legal standard, the audibility of the train’s whistle after the jury sent a note, and disputed other issues of jury instruction.
     It also claimed the court erroneously allowed the jury to view a questionable locomotive video, admitted hearsay testimony, erroneously granted Amtrak’s motion for directed verdict and admitted evidence of Amtrak’s claimed damages that had no proper foundation.
     The deadly collision came at 11:19 a.m. on June 24, 2011, on U.S. 95 near mile marker 60.
     The National Transportation Safety Board reported that Amtrak California Zephyr Train No. 5 was traveling 78 mph when the truck driven by Lawrence Valli, 43, of Winnemucca, skidded 320 feet, crashed through two safety rails and into a double-deck Amtrak passenger car.
     The crash caused a fireball, killing Valli and five Amtrak passengers. Amtrak sued John Davis Trucking five days later.
     Jaimie Kurtz of Hall Jaffe & Clayton filed the motion on John Davis Trucking’s behalf and was not immediately available by telephone Monday night.

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