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Brett Emison
Brett Emison
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Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Destroyed Evidence in Attempted Cover Up

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The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported yesterday that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad ("BNSF") engaged in a "staggering" pattern of misconduct, including destroying evidence in an attempted cover-up involving the deaths of four young people who were killed at a railroad crossing with a defective crossing gate.

Burlington Norther Santa Fe Corp. engaged in a "staggering" pattern of misconduct aimed at covering up its role in the deaths of four young people whose car collided with a train largely because a crossing gate wasn't working properly, a Washington County judge declared Thursday.

To punish the railroad, which allegedly began destroying evidence within minutes of the 2003 accident, Judge Ellen Maas awarded $4 million to the victims' families and their attorneys. The award comes on top of $21.6 million from a jury that place 90 percent of the blame for the accident on Burlington Northern.

The Court found that BNSFdestroyed some evidence, fabricated other evidence, interfered with the investigation and purposefully lied and advanced misleading facts in order to conceal the truth.

The railroad's conduct in destorying evidence and attempting to cover up its role in killing these four young people underscores the dangers of railroad crossing accidents. In the last decade, there have been more than 30,000 railroad crossing accidents that killed more than 3600 people. Half of these collisions occurred at train crossings with active warning devices (including lights, crossing gates or bells). However, as BNSF's conduct shows, how many of these devices were working properly? How many other malfunctions have been covered up by BNSF or other railroad companies?

BNSF's conduct is disgraceful and undermines the civil justice system. If justice is to mean anything, justice must be for all. Corporations and powerful lobbies simply cannot be permitted to buy or undermine justice at any cost. I commend the trial judge for holding Burlington Northern accountable for its despicable conduct.

Langdon & Emison is working to make railroad crossings safer and to hold railroad companies accountable when they cause death or serious injury. At our railroad accident web site, you can find out more about precautions you can take to protect yourself at railroad crossings. If you or a loved one have been injured, you can also find out how we can help you hold the railroad company accountable and prevent the kind of cover ups exposed in Minnesota.

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