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Record $2.8 Million Verdict Handed Down in Orange County in First Wrongful Death Trial From Metrolink Train Crash

SANTA ANA, Calif.,
May 20, 2005

A $2.8 million verdict was handed down by a jury in Orange County, California this afternoon in the first wrongful death case stemming from one of California’s worst commuter train disasters in history. A Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train crashed into a Metrolink Commuter train on April 23, 2002. Over 260 people were injured in this horrific crash and three people were tragically killed. One of those who perished was Larry Sorensen, age 47, who was a passenger on board the Metrolink commuter train. The trial involving the wrongful death case brought by Larry Sorensen’s parents began on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 in the Superior Court of California, Orange County, Central Justice Center, and a verdict was returned by the jury today against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

The Tragic Crash – Hundreds of commuters were traveling to work on the morning of April 23, 2002 as passengers on a Metrolink Commuter train. The engineer saw a freight train traveling directly at his train on the same tracks. He stopped the train and ran through the car screaming at the passengers to get down. The Metrolink train had come to a complete stop prior to being violently struck by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train. The crew of the freight train failed to comply with train signals warning of the passenger train traffic ahead, failed to slow at yellow warning signals, then failed to stop at a red signal. Investigators felt that the lack of an automatic braking system on the freight train also contributed to the cause of the crash. After several years of investigation and pretrial discovery, Burlington Northern Santa Fe admitted that it was guilty of misconduct in the operation of the train and was fully responsible for the deaths and injuries of hundreds of passengers on the Metrolink train.

The Trial – Ken and Lillian Sorensen, parents of Larry Sorensen, were represented at trial this week by attorneys Brian Panish and Kevin Boyle of Panish Shea & Boyle in Los Angeles, California. Mr. Panish stated that this verdict sends a strong message that the safety of the traveling public is of paramount importance and misconduct on the part of engineers and conductors will not be tolerated. Larry Sorensen was the model son, who was the primary caregiver for his elderly parents. The Sorensens have suffered a tragic loss that has been devastating to their family. The family hopes that after today’s verdict, that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and others in the same business of operating trains on the nation’s rails shared by commuter traffic do everything humanly and technically possible to make certain that reckless crashes like this one never happen again and cause other families to suffer the horrific loss of a loved one.

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