MIAMI--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Miami law firm Rossman, Baumberger, Reboso & Spier has sued Amtrak and CSX Transportation on behalf of the widow and two children of the Amtrak conductor killed in the fatal Sunday, February 4 rail collision near Cayce, S.C.
Christine Cella, widow of Amtrak conductor Michael Cella, filed the 14-page wrongful death suit for negligence against CSX Transportation Inc. and Amtrak for negligence in Duval County (Jacksonville, Fl.) Circuit Court February 8.
Mr. Cella, 36, of the Jacksonville suburb Orange Park, Fla., was killed with Amtrak engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Ga., when an Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami with 136 passengers and nine crew collided with a stationary CSX freight train at about 2:35 am Sunday morning on CSX owned-and-operated tracks near Cayce, S.C., injuring more than 100.
The suit was filed by railroad litigator and Rossman Baumberger partner Howard A. Spier of Miami, who has represented civilians, passengers, and crew members for more than three decades and railroad safety authority who recently authored an article in www.law.com headlined “It’s Time to Strengthen Railway Safety Laws for Passengers, Crews.” He is former president of the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys.
The suit alleges that Michael Cella “was forced to endure the horrendous fear of his pending demise as the Amtrak Train approached the deadly collision point, thereby giving rise to great conscious pain and suffering in the moments prior to collision and subsequently suffered a wrongful death as a result of his fatal wound suffered in the alleged incident.”
Spier said: “This lawsuit comes at a time when the railroad industry faces a national crisis of confidence in its ability to keep passengers and crews safe. Promoting and strengthening a culture of safety are critical in any discussion of America’s infrastructure.”
Christine Cella made the following statement: “Our family has received many media inquiries, and we respectfully ask that you honor our privacy while we grieve and bury my husband and our children’s father. One never completely heals from this kind of loss, but we look forward to joining others as passionate advocates in holding railroads and our nation’s transportation system accountable for the safety of passengers, crews, and communities.”
The two-count negligence suit alleges that the southbound Amtrak Passenger Train 91 “was improperly and unexpectedly diverted into a side track known as the Silica Siding by means of a mainline switch which, at all times material thereto, was negligently and recklessly misaligned and locked in the reverse position towards the Silica Siding and away from the mainline track by one or more employees.”
The suit alleges that Jacksonville-based CSX “deliberately disabled and/or suspended the track side signals along its S-line in the area where the Amtrak Train was traveling immediately prior to the alleged incident, thereby causing a portion of the S-line to be converted to dark territory,” a track section not controlled by signals.
While the train was removed from signals, the suit says, “the operating crew of the Amtrak Train was without the benefit of any track side signals or positive train control (PTC), a system that if implemented could have likely prevented the two trains in this case from colliding.”
The suit alleges 28 instances of negligence against CSX and nine against Amtrak. It faults CSX and Amtrak for failing to discover or warn the crew of the disabled signal and switch or take appropriate cautionary measures. The suit cites CSX for numerous failures in training and procedures.
Christine A. Cella, as personal representative of the estate of Michael B. Cella obo Elena Cella and Logan Cella v. CSX Transportation Inc. and National Railroad Transportation Corp. d/b/a Amtrak. Fourth Judicial Circuit, Duval County Circuit Court. Case No.: 18CA 858
Mr. Spier’s firm, Rossman, Baumberger, Reboso & Spier, was founded in 1974 to represent victims of catastrophic injury around the country. Mr. Spier is a Martindale-Hubbell AV lawyer listed in Best Lawyers in America and Florida Super Lawyers. To learn more, go to www.rbrlaw.com or call 305-373-0708.