Alorton youth injured climbing over rail car coupler sues railroads

Steve Gonzalez Sep. 20, 2007, 12:21am

The mother of a teenage boy who was injured as he walked between two rail cars filed suit against two railroads and the East St. Louis School District claiming they were negligent for the injury.

According to a suit filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court, Tracey Parks Lewis' son Dennis Parks was on his way to school when he attempted to crawl over a coupling device that held two rail cars together. The train suddenly lurched and moved causing his foot to be crushed, the suit claims.

Dennis Parks attends the Alternative High School and Crisis Center on Grant Street in Alorton.

The suit claims that on Sept. 18, 2006, an Alton Southern train was stopped in a stationary position on Norfolk Southern railroad tracks which blocked a "well-worn and well-established" and "beaten path" which has been used for many years by pedestrians walking to and from the school.

Parks Lewis claims it is the custom and practice of many students to be dropped off at a Bi-State bus stop on the opposite side of the railroad tracks from where the school is located.

She claims her son would walk across that path and across the Norfolk tracks because he had "no reasonable and affordable alternative means of transportation to and from school."

Parks Lewis also alleges that both of the railroads and the school were aware that students would walk across the tracks to get to school and were also aware that there had been at least one prior injury incident involving a train and a crossing pedestrian.

The suit claims the school district was negligent by allowing minors and other pedestrians to traverse over its property and onto Norfolk property when it knew that allowing minor children crossing onto railroad property constituted a hazardous and unsafe condition or situation.

Parks Lewis also claims the school failed to assign available and on-hand security guards to a position adjacent to the Norfolk property to either insist that the students cease from using the pathway or to make sure that students crossed the tracks in a safe manner.

Parks Lewis further alleges the school failed to erect a fence to prevent students from crossing the tracks, failed to provide transportation for students and failed to keep Norfolk from having trains in a stationary position on its tracks during school hours.

She claims Norfolk was negligent in failing to alter its train schedules and those of known users of its tracks to account for the known presence of minor children and students and failed to barricade or otherwise block the access to the path that students used.

Parks Lewis claims Alton Southern was negligent by stopping its train in an area where students were crossing its tracks, by causing its train to suddenly move forward from a stationary position when it knew students from the school may be attempting to cross the tracks and failing to educate train crews that minor students customarily crossed the tracks as part of their means to enter and leave the school.

She also alleges that the railroads failed to choose a safer, available and practicable location along the tracks to situate their trains in a stationary position.

According to Parks Lewis, her son sustained serious, permanent, painful and progressive injuries to his right foot including a partial amputation.

She claims her son's injuries caused him to experience pain and suffering, caused to be emotionally traumatized and suffers from depression and emotional shock associated with the injuries he suffered.

Parks Lewis also claims that she has had to expend money in order to pay for her son's medical expenses.

Represented by Paul Johnson of O'Fallon, Parks Lewis is seeking damages in excess of $500,000, plus costs of the suit.

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