Letters to the editor for April 13, 2012


Railroad crossing fatal


To the Editor


Corey Chase was an outgoing young man with a wide circle of friends and close family ties when he was killed Sept. 26, 2003.


Corey was a passenger in a car with three friends that entered the Ferry Street railroad crossing over BNSF tracks on a dark overcast evening.


The gates at the crossing were in the up position and there were no activated lights, or sounds of warning bells to alert him and the others of an approaching BNSF locomotive and train traveling 65 mph.


The collision cut the car in three pieces and all four occupants were found on the track ballast, deceased.


I had the privilege to represent the family of Corey in a claim against BNSF for its failure to properly maintain the crossing and prevent this tragedy.


At trial we proved BNSF knew of at least three prior activation failures. BNSF never traced the problem of the known activation failures, which could have prevented the loss of four young lives.


It took four-and-a-half years to get the case to trial which started in April 2008 and ended six weeks later with a verdict June 13, 2008. All rulings favored the families.


The court found significant misconduct of BNSF employees in altering documents, losing evidence which would have documented the crossing gate failure, offering false testimony and changing testimony during trial from previous statements made under oath.


In addition to damages awarded by the jury, the trial judge sanctioned BNSF $4,180,398.90 for its misconduct, and for the extra time and expense that this misconduct caused for the families and their attorneys.


Post-trial motions were followed by two-and-a-half years of appeals.


The families appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court requesting review of the appellate court decision.


In a rare granting of the families appeal, the case was argued before the Minnesota Supreme Court April 22, 2011.


After 11 months of review by the Minnesota Supreme Court, a historic decision was handed down March 28.


The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals decision and found that the case was properly and fairly tried with correct jury instructions as agreed to by the parties.


This case will stand among the historic cases in Minnesota judicial history and across the country.


On behalf of the families, we persisted in the pursuit of justice against the enormous resources of the railroad to uncover the deceit and misconduct that led to the death of our clients, which took them from their parents, siblings and friends.


Each of the decedents has a presence and memory that endures to this day in the hearts and minds of their family and friends.


It has been a most gratifying experience for me as a trial lawyer to be asked to participate in this case and become friends with my colleagues and all of the families that have endured this loss, and were burdened for nine years without a resolution, until today.


I admire the families and the challenges they overcame to continue on in life. I hope that the result we were able to achieve on their behalf in some small way helps to relieve their burden.


Paul Godlewski,
Ramsey, attorney with Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben law firm.




Awareness of weather


To the Editor:


Minnesota saw its first tornado of 2012 March 19. It traveled about seven miles near the town of Elysian, causing moderate damage. Tornadoes are not rare. In 2010, we faced 104 of these powerfully destructive storms.


Every year, Minnesotans are injured and property is destroyed by the inevitable weather threats that come with spring and summer.


The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) sponsors Severe Weather Awareness Week each April to remind our residents of the approaching danger and encourage them to prepare for it.


Now is the time to make a plan, get a NOAA weather radio and make an emergency kit.


The DPS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management sponsors a website full of information on weather safety.


Daily topics include both safety tips and data from the National Weather Service. They include:


• Monday: thunderstorms, hail, straight-line winds, lightning.


• Tuesday: severe weather warnings, emergency alert systems.


• Wednesday: floods and flash flooding.


• Thursday: tornadoes — statewide tornado drill Day (1:45 and 6:55 p.m.)


• Friday: heat waves


Please visit the site at weatherawareness.dps.mn.gov and plan to participate in tornado drills on Thursday, April 19.


Get ready, Minnesota!


Kris Eide, director, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Minnesota Department of Public Safety




Thanks for coming


To the Editor:


The Nowthen Heritage Festival Committee would like to thank all those who attended our March 31 spring pancake breakfast held at the Nowthen Alliance Church.


The Heritage Festival is a community-sponsored event which continues only with the generosity of our community volunteers and supporters.


The funds raised will be used for the fifth annual Nowthen Heritage Festival to be held on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.


And again thank you to the participants, volunteers and supporters we couldn’t do it without you.


Sue Pilon and Mary Rainville
Nowthen Heritage Festival Chairs



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