But Attorney James Wakefeld, who represents Metrolink, told Elias the county had the opportunity to remove itself from liability in the class-action lawsuit but didn’t.
Eleven passengers were killed and nearly 200 others injured when Compton resident Juan Manuel Alvarez parked his Jeep Cherokee on the Metrolink tracks near Chevy Chase Drive, close to the Glendale-Los Angeles border, on Jan. 26, 2005.
Alvarez was sentenced Aug. 20 in criminal court to serve 11 consecutive life sentences in prison after he was convicted in June for causing the deadly train derailment.
Survivors of the crash and family members of the deceased filed a wrongful-death and personal-injury lawsuit against Metrolink after the crash. The county and Sheriff’s Department were later brought in as additional defendants. Hershman said the civil lawsuit questions whether the Sheriff’s Department did enough to stop Alvarez from parking his Jeep Cherokee on the tracks.
The plaintiffs, in their class-action suit, claimed that the train’s operating system — known as “push-pull”— was potentially dangerous.
The “push” mode of train operation refers to when the train’s engine is in the rear of the train, pushing it from the back; the “pull” mode is when the engine is pulling the train from the front.
The lawsuit argues that the push-pull system failed to prevent the crash. Earlier this year, however, Metrolink went to the state court of appeals to find out whether the allegation had any merit, and the court ruled that the plaintiffs couldn’t argue that the railroad authority’s practice was negligent.
VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at veronica.rocha@ latimes.com.