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Railroad company seeks to dismiss ‘vague’ wrongful death lawsuit involving train wreck

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Jul 20, 2015


A railroad corporation accuses a father of making vague allegations in a lawsuit following a traumatic freight train accident that claimed the lives of his wife and three children near the Vandalia Halloween parade in 2013.

Plaintiff Scott Wisnasky, estate administrator for Dr. W and A.W., and Alyssa Sewall, all deceased, and as father and next of friend of minor Dy. W, filed a lawsuit on May 29 against CSX Transportation Inc. and CSX Corporation, Vandalia Railroad Company, Pioneer Railcorp Inc., Pioneer Railroad Services, CSX manager John Bradley and Crystal Anna, deceased.

According to the complaint, Crystal Anna, the plaintiff’s wife, was driving southbound on 6th Street in Vandalia on Oct. 30, 2014, approaching its intersection with Main Street when it was dark and raining. Her children, Dr. W, Dy. W, A.W. and Sewall were passengers in the vehicle.

The suit states that the railroad crossing’s flashing lights and gates are not visible to Main Street drivers where the CSX railroad crossing in Vandalia intersects with the two public roadways.

Wisnasky claims the intersection’s traffic control devices are out of compliance with regulations, and the intersection falls completely within the area where barricades come down when trains approach, creating a “unique” hazard.

According to the lawsuit, Anna’s vehicle became trapped in the intersection when she was crossing her vehicle over the tracks and the gates came down. As a result, a CSX freight train struck her car, killing her and her children, except for Dy. W.

The plaintiff accuses the defendants of wrongful death, failure to inspect and repair an unsafe crossing system and provide clear signage and warnings on the railroad’s part, and negligent driving on Crystal Anna’s part.

Defendants CSX Transportation, Inc. and John Bradley field a combined motion to dismiss on July 15, accusing the plaintiff of making “boilerplate” allegations and claiming the complaint “does not conform to the most basic of pleading requirements.”

“The primary result of these numerous pleading problems is that the complaint does not adequately inform the CSXT defendants of the allegations against them, nor does it inform the CSXT defendants of the factual basis of plaintiff’s claim,” the motion states.

More specifically, the plaintiff accuses the plaintiff of inconsistency and failing to properly allege facts to establish duty, breach, causation and damages.

“Plaintiff’s complaint includes numerous unsupported conclusions and speculation as to what people saw or were thinking as well as numerous other pleading deficiencies discussed in the motion,” the defendants argue.

Further, the defendants claim Bradley was wrongfully included as a defendant and has nothing to do with the incident.

“Plaintiff badly makes seriously false allegations regarding Mr. Bradley, and the court should grant summary judgment in his favor on all claims against him,” the motion states.

While the plaintiff brought claims against someone with no connection to the alleged incident, the plaintiff failed to bring claims against the City of Vandalia and the Vandalia Lion’s Club, which CSX claims are “necessary parties.”

The plaintiff alleges shock, trauma and medical and death-related expenses.

He seeks an unspecified judgment in his favor for damages to be determined by the court, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.

Wisnasky is represented by Bruce Major of Chesterfield, Mo.

CSX and Bradley are represented by Charles Swartwout, Andrew Corkey and Mark Favazza of Boyle Brasher LLC in Belleville.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-692

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