El Paso Times features $34.5 Million Jury Verdict Against Union Pacific Railroad for Double Death Case

El Paso Times
September 8, 2005
By Tammy Fonce-Olivas

$30 million of little use to family of two El Pasoans killed by train.

The day after an El Paso jury awarded Lower Valley resident Miguel Torres more than $30 million, the grieving widower said the judgment provides little comfort to his family.

“We don’t care about the money. We are in need of them, not the money,” Torres said Wednesday.

Torres’ wife, Flora, and their youngest daughter, 8-year-old Haydee, died when a Union Pacific train hit them while they were walking along the tracks from their modest home to his workplace near Alameda and Yarbrough on June 24, 2002.

Torres and his family said the deaths were preventable and filed the civil lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad. A jury in the 384th District Court before Judge Patrick Garcia awarded the family compensatory damages totaling $25 million, and on Tuesday the same jury gave the family $5.3 million in punitive damages.

Lawyer Carlos Rincon, who represented Union Pacific, could not be reached for comment.

Lawyer James F. Scherr—who along with Sam J. Legate, Roberto Oaxaca and Daniel Anchondo represented the Torres family—said the trail revealed that trains don’t have to slow down or brake for civilians on tracks.

“For railroad equipment and personnel (on the tracks), the rules of the railroad is to slow down or stop. For human beings, we learned that the rule is full speed ahead,” Scherr said. “If the horn doesn’t get them out of the way, this is the result.”

Scherr said the Torres family has offered to reject the punitive damages if Union Pacific installs fences and pedestrian overpasses in residential areas near tracks and requires trains to stop for people on tracks.

Union Pacific officials had not responded to the offer as of Wednesday, Scherr said.

Aurora Lucero, the mother and grandmother of the victims, said that the jury provided her family with justice but that judgment does not numb her pain.

“I lost my life when they died. It’s been three years and two months, and I still cannot accept their deaths,” Lucero said.