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Filed by Panish Shea & Boyle on behalf of the family of Lawrence Sorensen

Below is the original complaint filed by Panish Shea & Boyle on behalf of the family of Lawrence Sorensen who died in a Placentia Metrolink Train Accident on April 23, 2002. Metrolink paid Sorensen’s family $2,670,000.


Plaintiffs through their attorneys Brian Panish and Kevin Boyle bring the following cause of action against defendants:

INTRODUCTION

    1. This case concerns the horrifying train crash that occurred in Placentia, California on April 23, 2002. On that fateful morning, a freight train slammed into a stationary commuter train, killing two people, including LAWRENCE SORENSEN, and severely injuring hundreds of others. This accident could easily have been avoided with a few simple safety devices and/or safety procedures. Indeed, the corporate defendants in this action knew of the serious and substantial likelihood that an accident like this could occur and consciously chose to put corporate profits before passenger safety and disregarded the clear risk.
    2. LAWRENCE SORENSEN, a lifelong Los Angeles County resident, was a passenger on the commuter train, heading to his computer engineering job in Santa Ana, California. LAWRENCE was extremely close to his family. Indeed, LAWRENCE was watching his parents’ dog as they took a Hawaiian cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary. THE SORENSENS’ cruise was interrupted with terrible news: Their son LAWRENCE suffered severe physical injury and later died in the hospital as a result of the April 23rd crash.
    3. This lawsuit seeks to hold the defendants liable for their negligence and wilful misconduct. It seeks to compensate the plaintiffs for their devastating loss. The suit also seeks to punish the defendants for their behavior in order to deter them and others like them from making such callous decisions in the future. Ultimately, this lawsuit seeks to prevent what happened to LAWRENCE SORENSEN from ever happening to anyone else.

PARTIES

    1. Plaintiff LILLIAN SORENSEN is the mother of LAWRENCE SORENSEN and as such is a successor in interest pursuant to California Civil Code § 377.60(a).
    2. Plaintiff KEN SORENSEN is the father of LAWRENCE SORENSEN and as such is a successor in interest pursuant to California Civil Code § 377.60(a).
    3. Plaintiff ESTATE OF LAWRENCE SORENSEN is to be formed.
    4. Plaintiffs are informed that defendant THE BURLINGTON NORTHERN & SANTA FE RAILWAY COMPANY, (hereinafter BURLINGTON NORTHEN) is and was a corporation headquartered in Texas authorized to engage in and engaged in substantial and continuous business in Los Angeles County, California. In fact, BURLINGTON NORTHERN runs Hobart yard in Los Angeles, the busiest trailer and container-handling rail facility in the world. BURLINGTON NORTHERN is and was engaged in the business of a common carrier by railroad in interstate commerce in the State of California and other states.
    5. Plaintiffs are informed that defendant SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA REGIONAL RAIL AUTHORITY aka and dba METROLINK (hereinafter METROLINK) is and was a California entity, authorized to engage in and engaged in substantial business in Los Angeles County, California, with its principle place of business in Los Angeles County, California. METROLINK is and was engaged in the business of a common carrier by railroad in interstate commerce in the State of California and other states.
    6. Plaintiffs are informed that defendant DARRELL WELLS was the engineer of the BURLINGTON NORTHERN train involved in the accident. DARRELL WELLS is and was a California resident.
    7. The true names and/or capacities, whether individual, corporate, associate or otherwise of defendants DOES 1 through 100 are unknown to plaintiffs at this time, who therefore sue said defendants by such fictitious names. Plaintiffs are informed that each of the defendants fictitiously named herein as a DOE is legally responsible, in negligence or in some other actionable manner, for the events and happenings referred to herein, and thereby proximately caused the injuries and damages to plaintiffs as alleged herein. The plaintiffs will ask leave of court to amend this Complaint to insert the true names and/or capacities of such fictitiously named defendants when the same have been ascertained.
    8. All defendants were and are the agents, representatives, servants, employers and employees of each of the remaining defendants, and acted at all times within the purpose and scope of said agency and in said capacity.

DAMAGES

    1. At the time of his untimely injury and death, LAWRENCE SORENSEN, age 48, was in good heath, was a loving and caring family member, and by reason of his fatal injuries, plaintiffs have suffered grief, mental anguish, and have been deprived of LAWRENCE SORENSEN’s love, affection, solace, companionship, society, love, protection, moral guidance, services, care, counsel, guidance and training, advice, and moral support, as well as monetary contributions and other financial support, and has incurred funeral and burial expenses and other damages.
    2. During the time before the crash and the time after the crash until his death, LAWRENCE SORENSEN suffered pre-death injuries and pre-death pain, suffering, anxiety, and emotional distress.
    3. By reason of all of the foregoing, plaintiffs have sustained compensatory damages in a sum in excess of the jurisdictional amount of this Court, together with such exemplary damages as a jury may award and this Court may sustain.

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION

(NEGLIGENCE and WILLFUL MISCONDUCT against Defendants BURLINGTON NORTHERN, METROLINK, DARRELL WELLS, and DOES 1-100)

  1. Plaintiffs repeat and reallege each and every allegation contained in the prior paragraphs.
  2. Defendants BURLINGTON NORTHERN, METROLINK, DARRELL WELLS, and DOES 1-100 owed a duty of care to LAWRENCE SORENSEN and the rest of the passengers on the METROLINK train. The defendants breached that duty by the conduct described below and that breach caused the described damages previously described.
  3. On April 23, 2002, defendants were responsible for maintaining and ensuring the safety and proper working condition of the tracks, locomotives, trains, signs, signals, switches, safety devices, communication devices and other equipment at and along the previously described railroad tracks in or near Placentia, California, and for properly and safely managing, operating, overseeing or coordinating the travel of trains along those tracks and adjoining tracks.
  4. On and prior to April 23, 2002, the tracks near Placentia, California, and the trains, locomotives, signs, signals, switches, safety devices, communication devices, and other equipment located in the vicinity were, as a result of the negligent or otherculpable conduct of defendants, in an improper, dangerous and/or defective condition that was known or should have been known by defendants and that created a substantial risk of injury when the area was used in a reasonably foreseeable manner. This condition occurred in that, among other things, the tracks and the surrounding area were negligently designed, controlled, installed, constructed, overseen, and maintained in an unsafe and improper manner, in that railroad operations over and near the tracks failed to be carried out in a safe, non-negligent and/or proper manner, which thereby caused the injuries and death to LAWRENCE SORENSEN and the damages to plaintiffs.
  5. Prior to the time of the accident, defendants had knowledge of the improper condition of the tracks, equipment and area and of the inevitability of a deadly train collision that would result from said condition, yet defendants consciously ignored that inevitability and refused to install and utilize readily available safety mechanisms or procedures, such as automatic train stopping and warning systems, and other known safety mechanisms, in an effort to save money. By putting profits before passenger safety, defendants acted with malice, oppression, and a conscious disregard for the safety of passengers and the rights of plaintiffs, and of the community at large, and acted with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights of passengers and plaintiffs. As a consequence, defendants are liable to plaintiffs for punitive and exemplary damages in an amount sufficient to punish defendants for engaging in such conduct and to deter defendants and others from engaging in such conduct in the future.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, plaintiffs pray judgment against defendants as hereinafter set forth:

  1. For general damages in an amount according to proof at trial, and beyond the jurisdictional minimum of this Court;
  2. For economic and property losses, in an amount according to proof at trial;
  3. For pre-death injury, pain, suffering, anxiety, and emotional distress.
  4. For interest upon any judgment entered as provided by law;
  5. For costs of suit incurred herein;
  6. For punitive damages, based on the willful misconduct and conscious disregard for lives and safety described above; and
  7. For such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

Respectfully submitted,

DATED: May 7, 2002

By

BRIAN J. PANISH

KEVIN R. BOYLE

ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS

Panish Shea & Boyle are among the top personal injury litigators in the country, representing clients in a number of high profile car accident, train accident, wrongful death, and catastrophic injury cases.

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