NEW MARTINSVILLE – A jury returned a verdict that CSX Transportation was not negligent in the 2009 death of 18-year-old Andrew Haslam.
The jury returned with its verdict on Nov. 4, after deliberating for nearly three hours, finding that CSX, engineer Carey B. Boggs and utility trainman John R. Warsinsky were not negligent for Haslam's death.
The case was tried for eight days before Chief Judge David W. Hummel Jr.
The defense alleged that the crew observed Haslam walking adjacent to the tracks as they approached Porters Falls and that they provided the appropriate horn warning as required by CSX rules.
As Haslam, a graduate of Valley High School, walked closer to the tracks, the warnings continued, however, Haslam did not react.
Haslam ultimately walked onto the tracks and into the path of the train as the horn warnings continued, and when this happened, the engineer and utility trainman both applied the emergency brakes to try to bring the train to a stop.
At that point, the collision could not be avoided and the train struck Haslam.
The defense called experts to establish that the train crew had done all they could to avoid the collision and that the lack of a reaction from Haslam meant that he was distracted in some way from acknowledging the various audible and visual warnings that were available.
An MP3 player and earbuds were found at the scene and a human factors expert opined that a reasonable conclusion was that Haslam was wearing the earbuds and listening to music at the time of the accident.
April D. Ueltschy, the administratrix of Haslam's estate and his mother, claimed for many years the defendants knew or should have known that people in the community were accustomed to and regularly walked on, alongside and over the railroad track in Porters Falls.
She also claimed that CSX failed to provide educational outreach programs in Porters Falls and neighboring communities despite knowing that such programs are effective in preventing pedestrian railroad deaths and injuries and that CSX failed to take the steps necessary to ensure the safe operation of its trains running along the Short Line.
Ueltschy claimed the train crew failed to maintain a lookout for Haslam, failed to provide the federally required horn warnings of the trains' approach and failed to stop the train in time to avoid striking Haslam.
She also alleged that CSX committed fraud and outrageous conduct in its post-accident conduct, failed to investigate the accident, spoliated evidence at the scene, failed to adequately train the crew and failed to exercise discipline of the crew for repeated rule violations.
Ueltschy was seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. She was represented by W. Howard Klatt of Klatt Law Offices; E. Richard Ogrodowski and Frederick B. Goldsmith of Goldsmith & Ogrodowski; and David B. Fawcett of Reed Smith LLP.
CSX was represented by Marc E. Williams and Robert Massie of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.