Zoo employees may be sued for train crash


by WHAS11


Posted on November 21, 2012 at 2:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 21 at 2:40 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A Jefferson County circuit court judge has decided the city of Louisville will not be getting sued, but several of its employees could for the 2009 train derailment at the Louisville Zoo.

Ron Hillerich represents one of the 29 passengers who was on the train when it crashed.

“The court left seven of the individual employees of the zoo in this case and said they are not entitled to any type of immunity because there were basic safety statutes violated,” said Hillerich.

A Kentucky Department of Agriculture investigation found three main contributing factors for the crash; the train was speeding, the operator was not properly trained and there were mechanical problems with the train.

Court records show the emergency brake label was removed, the warning sound and light for low brake pressure was disconnected and none of the 58 brake shoes on the train was within the manufactures specifications.

Chad Gardner says his clients would have never gotten on the train if they had known those problems existed.

“He had his leg pinned under the train, he has had eight surgeries, missed a year-and-a-half of work, approximately $400,000 of medical bills,” said Gardner. “It turned his family upside down.”

Gardner and Hillerich would not say how much they are suing for, but they are going after the seven zoo employees, which include the assistant zoo director, several supervisors and the operator who was driving train.

“So this is a game changer for us,” said Hillerich. “It’s now time for the city, now that the court has spoken, to try and resolve these cases.”

Metro government, the Louisville Zoo Foundation and the zoo's director are still immune to a lawsuit.

The Jefferson County Attorney says he will have to talk with Metro Government and Metro Council about what they will do next. They can either file an appeal within 30 days, settle, or go to trial which is currently scheduled for May 2013.

Click here to view the ruling. Metro Government, the Louisville Zoo, and the County Attorney’s Office released the following statement:

"We are pleased with the majority of the Court’s ruling granting summary judgment. We will be  conferring with Metro and Zoo officials regarding those individuals not granted dismissal in this ruling."