Amtrak engineer, railway co. sued by man who lost wife, unborn child

Kelly Holleran Aug. 26, 2009, 2:00am

A man who says his wife and unborn child were killed after being hit by a train is suing the railway company and engineer he blames for the accident.

Matthew S. Balven filed a lawsuit Aug. 20 in Madison County Circuit Court against Kansas City Southern Railway Company and Kathy M. Richardson.

Matthew Balven claims his wife Heather S. Balven was driving a 2008 Ford F-150 pick-up truck east near the Seventh Street railroad crossing in Hartford on March 12.

At the same time, Richardson was engineering an Amtrak train north on railroad tracks controlled by Kansas City Southern.

"The train operated by Defendant Richardson collided with the pick up truck at or near the 7th Street crossing," the suit states. "At the time of the collision, Heather S. Balven was approximately three months pregnant with Morgan A. Balven."

Because of the accident, Heather S. Balven suffered fatal injuries, according to the complaint.

As a result of his wife's death, Matthew Balven incurred funeral costs and lost Heather Balven's society, companionship, love, affection, guidance, economic support, emotional support and consortium, the complaint says.

Heather Balven's next-of-kin have endured grief, sorrow and mental suffering, her husband claims.

Matthew Balven contends Kansas City Southern is at fault because it failed to maintain the crossing and its right-of-way in a safe manner, it failed to place adequate warning devices at the crossing, it failed to maintain adequate and safe sight distances for motorists driving on the road leading to the crossing and it failed to properly clear the right-of-way of foliage, brush, trees and other growth.

Matthew Balven blames Richardson for failing to keep a careful lookout and for failing to give a timely warning of the train's approach.

In the four-count suit, Matthew Balven is seeking a judgment of more than $200,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

Thomas K. Neil and Morry S. Cole of Gray, Ritter and Graham in St. Louis will be representing him.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-871.

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