Father of girl killed by train files suit

A man, whose 7-year-old daughter was struck and killed by a freight train in May when she crossed some railroad tracks while headed home from Carver Park, has sued Kansas City Southern Railroad Co. and two of its employees.

Filed Thursday in the 23rd Judicial District Court, the wrongful death suit accuses the Kansas City, Mo., railroad of negligence and recklessness, alleging it should have known about a makeshift footbridge next to the tracks that was constructed from railroad ties and was commonly used to provide neighborhood residents access to the city park.

“The bridge, which was on the defendants’ property, was an open and obvious attractive nuisance for children and others to cross the railroad tracks,” the suit alleges.

The suit claims KCS and its employees could clearly see the bridge and took no “positive action” to prevent children and others from having access to cross the tracks.

The bridge crosses a ditch between the KCS tracks and a Gonzales subdivision to the east, a neighborhood where the deceased child, Shawn’Kell “Lucy” Patterson, lived. Carver Park is west of the tracks.

According to police at the time, Patterson lived on North Cedar Avenue in a house on a lot that abutted the ditch and the KCS tracks behind the ditch.

The suit also alleges the defendants operating the train failed to take precautions for the pedestrian crossing in use for many years and the company failed to instruct
employees that extreme caution should be used at the crossing.

Shawn Patterson filed the suit on behalf of his daughter, a second-grader at George Washington Carver Primary School in Gonzales at the time of her death May 1.

The suit seeks damages from the loss of Shawn’Kell’s life and for the pain she suffered before she died, as well as medical bills and funeral expenses.

In addition, the suit names KCS train operator Lester Thomas, 8705 Jefferson Highway, Harahan; and KCS brakeman Greg Swann, 117 Hideaway, Carriere, Miss., as civil defendants.

The incident occurred before 6:10 p.m. May 1, police reported at the time.

Gonzales Police Detective Sgt. Steven Nethken said
Friday that police filed no criminal charges in the incident.

Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Robert Kulat said Friday the agency’s final accident report on the incident is not complete.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Chuck Long, declined comment Friday on the litigation.

“I think the lawsuit speaks for itself,” said Long, who separately prosecutes criminal cases in the 23rd Judicial District Court as an assistant district attorney.

Doniele Carlson, KCS spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.

The suit, which seeks a jury trial, has been assigned to Judge Ralph Tureau.

The 23rd Judicial District encompasses Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes.