The three-train wreck occurred when a southbound Metrolink train struck a 2003 Jeep Cherokee parked on the tracks. The train jumped the track, hitting a parked Union Pacific train and a passing northbound train.
Alvarez, 28, from Compton, who is accused of driving the Jeep onto the tracks, faces criminal charges of arson and 11 counts of murder with special circumstances for allegedly dousing the Cherokee in gasoline and leaving it on the tracks near Chevy Chase Drive. More than 200 people were injured.
Alvarez pleaded not guilty in May 2005.
In an ongoing civil suit filed against Metrolink and Alvarez on behalf of 60 families of crash victims and some injured in the crash, attorneys for the plaintiffs say that Metrolink’s use of “push-pull” operation — which uses a locomotive to push rail cars in one direction and then pull them for the reverse trip — contributed to the severity of the crash.
A state court agreed at the end of August to review an appeal from Metrolink attorneys, who argue that federal regulations regarding train operation preclude the practice from being used against the transit organization in the pending class-action suit.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias ruled in June that a jury could decide whether Metrolink’s push-pull operation make it liable for the 2005 wreck, but an appellate court is set to hear Metrolink’s appeal on Jan. 15, said J. Clark Aristei, an attorney working as a liaison between the 60 plaintiffs and the five law firms working the case.
That case has grabbed the attention of several transit companies nationwide, as well as consumer groups, which have each filed briefs for the court’s consideration, Aristei said.
The civil case, which has a trial date set for July 14.
No date has yet been set for the criminal case, but jury selection is scheduled to start Feb. 19 and last through Feb. 25.
The trial is not likely to start until mid-March, Belter said.
RYAN VAILLANCOURT covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at ryan.vaillancourt@ latimes.com.