The husband of a woman who died in a Rockford train derailment in 2009 was awarded $22.5 million to settle a lawsuit against three railroad companies, officials announced today.
Jose Tellez, 40, was with his wife Zoila and their daughter on June 19, 2009 when a Canadian National Railway Company train with 114 cars including 74 tankers filled with ethanol derailed as it travelled from Freeport to Chicago, according to a press release issued by Corboy and Demetrio, lawyers for the man. That case was settled before trial, officials said.
Zoila Tellez, 44, pf Rockford, was killed as she ran from their car while on fire from the explosions that resulted after the derailment, according to the lawyers. Jose Tellez also was badly burned as he tried to flee for safety.
In addition to the settlement for Jose Tellez, the couple's 19-year-old daughter who was in the car at the time was awarded $13.75 million for injuries she sustained. The woman was about 6 1/2 months pregnant at the time and lost the baby as a result of her injuries. Her case, which was represented by the Joseph Parente Law firm was settled during jury deliberations, officials said.
The family was waiting for the train to pass when 18 cars containing two million gallons of ethanol derailed nearby at a washout a few yards west of the intersection and caused the explosion and "massive fire ball" which engulfed the family's car, according to the law suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court.
In the suit, filed against the Canadian National Railway Company, plaintiffs alleged that it was negligent in the operation, maintenance and supervision of the train. The suit also claimed the company was negligent in the maintenance and inspection of the railroad track. Along with the Canadian company, the suit also named its subsidiary companies, the Illinois Central Railroad Company and the Chicago, Central & Pacific Railroad Company as defendants.
Lawyers for Tellez said in the suit that 20 minutes before the derailment, the Winnebago County 911 center phoned the Canadian company at its headquarters in Montreal, Canada and warned officials that a portion of the track, which turned out to be near the derailment, had been washed out.
In documents and witness testimony, officials noted that the engineer of the train had noticed water conditions on the track minutes away but instead of slowing down, the engineer actually sped the train up.
"Proper communication between and amongst railroads like these in the Canadian National Railway system is a necessity, not a luxury. Railroads carrying hazardous cargo that travel through crowded residential areas like Chicago and Rockford need to be extra cautious about their cargo and any dangers ahead," said Philip Harnett Corboy Jr.
Along with her husband, other survivors of Zoila Tellez include daughters Adriana, 19; Lisette, 17; Cristal, 14; and Elvira, 11.
In a statement issued today, Patrick Waldron, a spokesman for the railroad said the settlements mean the conclusion of litigation stemming from the accident. He said the derailment remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
"The Tellez family has endured a terrible tragedy and CN wishes to express again its sincerest regrets and deepest sympathies to the entire Tellez family. No amount of money can replace the family’s losses," said Waldron.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times