colorado hirailer posted:

Isn't this road some kind of National Historical Site, and exempt from this kind of petty harassment?  Should be...

Petty harassment? You do realize the Plaintiff is the United States of America, right? Not Farmer Brown whose 3-acre soybean field went up?

How would being on the National Register of Historic Places shield the railroad from a federal lawsuit?

Steve

 

As noted, l think it should be exempt from frivolous lawsuits.  And going back beyond the Japanese internments of WWll and what is on the nightly news, at the risk of making a political statement, unfortunately, the US government (intangible entity) has not always acted with the wisdom of Soloman.

??Another one of THOSE!!??  What you want to sell is not what I want to buy!

Whether or not the suit goes against the RR, the insurance companies are going to look at this and start dropping tourist roads like hot coals.  I am afraid the sky just might BE falling, and it will fall for much more than just the D&S.

Frisco, MoPac, and T&P near Rolla, MO

There is no proof that the Silverton and Durango RR started a fire and it should be assumed that precautions were taken to insure that it couldn't happen. . All we have here is speculation. 

Before the Milwaukee Road had abandoned its Chicago to Seattle route, there were sections that ran through state and federal woodlands through the Bitteroot Mountains in Idaho.  There was never a fire as the railroad electrified the line and later ran diesels.

Builder of the Hill Lines ( New Delta Lines). Recreating history for the model RR community.

This litigation is likely going to take years to resolve. Discovery hasn't even begun, so yes, all we have at this point are the unsupported allegations in the Complaint. However, as much as we may not like the Complaint, it is certainly not "frivolous," legally speaking.

A scheduling/planning conference is scheduled for September 17, 2019. It's been referred to a magistrate judge, who may order the parties to mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods.

Steve

 

Dennis LaGrua posted:

There is no proof that the Silverton and Durango RR started a fire and it should be assumed that precautions were taken to insure that it couldn't happen. . All we have here is speculation. 

Before the Milwaukee Road had abandoned its Chicago to Seattle route, there were sections that ran through state and federal woodlands through the Bitteroot Mountains in Idaho.  There was never a fire as the railroad electrified the line and later ran diesels.

The article made it seem like the US attorney's office does have proof that the fire was started by the RR. If this suit results in all coal-burning steamers to be more proactive in fire prevention and suppression, it's a win for all involved

Jonathan-Arlington, TX

All Postwar, all the time

LCCA # 43702

The Complaint says that "Federal Fire Investigators" concluded the train had started the fire. I'm sure there is a report--likely available on-line.

EDIT: Near as I can tell, as of June 1, 2019, the Forest Service has yet to issue their report, saying it's taken longer than expected.

Steve

 

colorado hirailer posted:

I just wonder if this is the first fire supposedly caused by a steamer along  the ROW, given the D&RGW ran trains, coal fired steamers, over this route since the 1880's?

According to the Complaint, no:

17.  "Defendants’ train operations along its Durango-to-Silverton railroad track has previously caused wildfires requiring deployment of federal fire-fighting resources, incurring fire suppression costs. Examples of fires previously started by Defendants include: the 2012 GoblinFire (1,000 acres burned); the 2012 Needleton Fire (6 acres burned); the 2002 Schaff II Fire (550 acres burned); and the 1994 Mitchell Lakes Fire (270 acres burned)."

TCA, LCCA

Isn't this like trying to get blood from a turnip? DOJ is seeking $25 million and I bet that would bankrupt the railroad. If that happens I'm thinking you can roll up the sidewalks of Silverton and probably Durango as well. Those are tourist towns and a lot of their trade comes from people there for the train. I don't get the Administration's goal here because the railroad has taken the necessary steps to remedy the situation going forward (by converting to oil-firing) and this suit, if successful, will destroy the railroad and probably the local economy as well.

Lew

Lew

 

Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.

geysergazer posted:

Isn't this like trying to get blood from a turnip? DOJ is seeking $25 million and I bet that would bankrupt the railroad. If that happens I'm thinking you can roll up the sidewalks of Silverton and probably Durango as well. Those are tourist towns and a lot of their trade comes from people there for the train. I don't get the Administration's goal here because the railroad has taken the necessary steps to remedy the situation going forward (by converting to oil-firing) and this suit, if successful, will destroy the railroad and probably the local economy as well.

Lew

First of all, DOJ isn't seeking a specified monetary amount at this point.

Second, the railroad's liability carrier will be on the hook for any damages won (unless they are self-insured to a certain amount). It's really way, way too early to know what's going to happen here.

The "goal" appears to be trying to recoup some of your hard-spent tax dollars...

Steve

 

smd4 posted:
geysergazer posted:

Isn't this like trying to get blood from a turnip? DOJ is seeking $25 million and I bet that would bankrupt the railroad. If that happens I'm thinking you can roll up the sidewalks of Silverton and probably Durango as well. Those are tourist towns and a lot of their trade comes from people there for the train. I don't get the Administration's goal here because the railroad has taken the necessary steps to remedy the situation going forward (by converting to oil-firing) and this suit, if successful, will destroy the railroad and probably the local economy as well.

Lew

First of all, DOJ isn't seeking a specified monetary amount at this point.

Second, the railroad's liability carrier will be on the hook for any damages won (unless they are self-insured to a certain amount). It's really way, way too early to know what's going to happen here.

The "goal" appears to be trying to recoup some of your hard-spent tax dollars...

I was going by this:

"The cause was released in a federal lawsuit from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado that seeks compensation for firefighting and rehabilitation efforts, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office says cost the federal government approximately $25 million so far."

One wonders if the railroad has insurance to cover off-[railroad]-property fire? Liability insurance to cover on-property injury, of course, as well as on-property fire damage but fire liability extending beyond the railroad's property? Is that kind of insurance even sold I wonder?

Lot's of my tax dollars are spent every year fighting wildland fires to keep from burning neighborhoods that never should have been built because proximity to fire-prone wildlands  and I'm perfectly happy spending a few more to leave alone a venerable institution of living history. It would be different if we taxpayers had to expect a never-ending issue going forward but the railroad has, after all, addressed the problem.

Lew

Lew

 

Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.

geysergazer posted:

Isn't this like trying to get blood from a turnip? DOJ is seeking $25 million and I bet that would bankrupt the railroad. If that happens I'm thinking you can roll up the sidewalks of Silverton and probably Durango as well. Those are tourist towns and a lot of their trade comes from people there for the train. I don't get the Administration's goal here because the railroad has taken the necessary steps to remedy the situation going forward (by converting to oil-firing) and this suit, if successful, will destroy the railroad and probably the local economy as well.

Lew

Well, as far as I can derive from knightly gnus, Colorado is already going to 'pot'....happily, even!!  

I 'spect Durango and Silverton can remake their local economies on the fortunes of cannabis once that inferno infernal train that's ruining the environment and jeopardizing the safety of the lowliest of fauna and grandest of flora is gone for good!  Seems The Centennial State has unwittingly set itself up to be the supplier of black market weed to the rest of the nation...especially Florida.  Big biz.  Common folks gettin' rich.  Apparently it's a (serendipitous) "unexpected consequence" of their legislation.   Now don't that beat all?

In fact, basement growing/reaping operations in your neighbor's residence is the gnu norm.  Even  MODEL railroads in the cellar can't bring home the bacon that a few pots-o'-pot can.  Depreciating toys?....they're outta here, pal!!!

The heads of the Better Biz Bureaus of Durango and Silverton...

cheech-and-chong

...are eagerly looking forward to the new opportunity.

Who'd have thought that the DOJ would become a source of urban revitalization, job/income growth, and environmental heroism through a "frivolous" () lawsuit??  

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.

.

 (I'm ready, Lord!  REALLY ready!)

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geysergazer posted:
smd4 posted:
geysergazer posted:

Isn't this like trying to get blood from a turnip? DOJ is seeking $25 million and I bet that would bankrupt the railroad. If that happens I'm thinking you can roll up the sidewalks of Silverton and probably Durango as well. Those are tourist towns and a lot of their trade comes from people there for the train. I don't get the Administration's goal here because the railroad has taken the necessary steps to remedy the situation going forward (by converting to oil-firing) and this suit, if successful, will destroy the railroad and probably the local economy as well.

Lew

First of all, DOJ isn't seeking a specified monetary amount at this point.

Second, the railroad's liability carrier will be on the hook for any damages won (unless they are self-insured to a certain amount). It's really way, way too early to know what's going to happen here.

The "goal" appears to be trying to recoup some of your hard-spent tax dollars...

I was going by this:

"The cause was released in a federal lawsuit from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado that seeks compensation for firefighting and rehabilitation efforts, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office says cost the federal government approximately $25 million so far."

One wonders if the railroad has insurance to cover off-[railroad]-property fire? Liability insurance to cover on-property injury, of course, as well as on-property fire damage but fire liability extending beyond the railroad's property? Is that kind of insurance even sold I wonder?

Lot's of my tax dollars are spent every year fighting wildland fires to keep from burning neighborhoods that never should have been built because proximity to fire-prone wildlands  and I'm perfectly happy spending a few more to leave alone a venerable institution of living history. It would be different if we taxpayers had to expect a never-ending issue going forward but the railroad has, after all, addressed the problem.

Lew

The reason you buy Liability Insurance is to protect yourself in case you damage someone's property or cause bodily injury.  To protect your own property you purchase casualty insurance.

OK, could the Federal Government ban the use of coal fired steam on tracks within federal lands BEFORE the fire began?  And if it could have, why didn't they.

If this is true, the Feds could become the real defendent.

The TEXAS SPECIAL:  The REAL RED streak of the golden prairies!

dkdkrd posted:

Well, as far as I can derive from knightly gnus, Colorado is already going to 'pot'....happily, even!!  

I 'spect Durango and Silverton can remake their local economies on the fortunes of cannabis once that inferno infernal train that's ruining the environment and jeopardizing the safety of the lowliest of fauna and grandest of flora is gone for good!

Listen to yourself.

I'm not versed in politics at ALL (in fact I hate it), but I am CERTAIN having an economy based off of the fortunes of pot would be MUCH worse for the well-being of the residents than a few coal-burning steam locomotives. Not like that would even happen anyway...

I don't see a realistic alternative for these towns should the railroad lose the suit, especially for Silverton. The northern terminus of the D&S is a much smaller town than Durango (the southern terminus), and therefore likely more vulnerable.

Nick

Part-time Ferroequinologist

Pennsy Productions - Bringing you the best railroads of the Midwest

“It’s a good thing to let another generation know what a steam locomotive is.” - W. Graham Claytor, Jr.

Tinplate Art posted:

Could the D&S be a scapegoat for the Fed's carelessness?

Did you really just write that? And all this time I thought you were sort of a level-headed guy.

Listen, I love steam trains, and especially coal-fired steam. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that (barring arson--of which there is zero evidence at this point) it's entirely possible--if not likely--that a cinder from a steam locomotive may actually be the cause of this fire.

This blind mantra that "trains good, everything else bad" is getting a little tin-foil-hat-ish.

Steve

 

Silverton has nothing going for it except for tourists brought in by the D&S.  My wife and I spent the night in Silverton a few years ago.  The town closes up as soon as the train departs.  In addition to the hotel, I think that there was one restaurant open.  We enjoyed walking through what was essentially an old west ghost town.  

Durango is major crossroads and is near Mesa Verde National Park.  It also has a University of Colorado campus.  It should continue to do well if the railroad closed down.  Tourists and students will still visit.

Most likely any damages that the D&S is found liable for will be paid by insurance.  Most high risk policies are covered by Lloyds of London and re-insured through other companies such as Swiss-Re.  The big question for the D&S is the cost of future insurance coverage.

$25 million is a lot of money but is almost a trivial loss for companies like Lloyds.  Pacific Gas & Electric has been found liable for some of the recent CA fires including the one that completely destroyed Paradise, CA.  The damages are in the billions and PG&E has filed bankruptcy.   The fires are going to paid for by insurance and the rate payers (including me).    NH Joe

Steve: My comment was meant to be a satirical, tongue-in-cheek criticism of often skewed and convoluted government regulations and associated bureacracy! If the Feds were aware of any recent climatic, environmental or other changing parameters that required the D&S to take additional corrective action regarding spark effusion, perhaps they should have initiated meetings with the D&S Operating Dept. in a more timely manner. The discovery phases of this legal wrangle should be quite revelatory, and only then can we understand where the "fault" lies. Obviously, there are a number of variables that come into play here, foremost the D&S being compliant with already in-place Federal guidelines and regulations regarding spark arresting procedures and equipment. If a thorough investigation reveals that the railroad had taken ALL practical steps mandated by the government for operating these locomotives under the existing conditions of climate and vegetation along the right of way, then it might be more difficult to prove negligence.

vita sine litteris mors est  (Seneca)

I am not sure this could be considered "frivolous", this isn't like someone suing a distillery because they got cirrhosis of the liver downing a fifth of bourbon every day. Like any legal case, it is going to come down to the answer to several questions:

1)Has the plaintiff in the case experienced harm? Answer in this case, yes, the government spent 25 million dollars or whatever putting out the fire (and theoretically, if any private residences or farms burned, they could sue as well). 

2)Does the evidence in the matter support the claim of the plaintiff that the defendant through its actions was the prime cause of the loss/harm. In this case, what evidence do we have that it was a cinder from the engine that caused this, which will come out in discovery and in the trial itself

3)Did the defendant in this case violate any regulations or laws in the operation of the engine, for example, if regulation required that the engine have some kind of cinder catching gizmo on the smokestack and it was found it didn't, this could lead to a summary judgement against the railroad from what I know if the plaintiff asked. 

4)Did the defendant follow best practices of the industry, in this case in regards to preventing a fire,and more importantly, did they follow their own designated rules? Wouldn't necessarily be a cinder, if for example the railroad has a rule of no smoking allowed in the cab of the engine, and it was found that engineers and firemen were routinely violating this rule, the railroad apparently wasn't enforcing it, and someone tossed a cigarette butt that caused a fire (obviously not in this case), the rr could be held liable. If best practice is to have a fire suppression car in the train or following it, did they do that? 

5)Was the railroad operating in conditions it should not have been? For example, in this case, was there a drought where it was known there was a much greater chance of starting a fire, and thus perhaps the trains should not be running. Or were there really high winds, which would increase the likelihood of a spark igniting a fire (this would fall under negligence)

6)Another question that I could see coming from the defense, did the government know of increased risk in sending trains through the area ie higher risk of fire yet didn't warn people using the area of the increased risk? For example, the smokey the bear signs they have in state and national parks showing the relative risk of wildfires starting. 

7)Another thing that would be relevant if I remember correctly is  if the plaintiff regularly instituted legal action in similar cases. So for example, if let's say through negligence a chemical company caused a huge explosion and fire that burned a forest, did the government sue them for the cost? From what I know, unequal enforcement or unequal legal actions (suing some businesses for the cost of action and not others) could weaken the federal government's case. 

In the end, when these questions are answered at trial, it will be up to a jury or judge to decide how the answers to these questions lead to a verdict. At least from having been on civil trials, the damages are based on relative liability ie how much of the blame can be put on the defendant and also how much of the blame could be laid at the feet of the defendant (kind of like in a car accident, where they assign relative blame). If the railroad followed procedures, if it was found not to be negligent, if this simply was an accident, a jury or judge could award the federal government a percent of what they are claiming, if the railroad was negligent, showed wanton disregard, a jury or judge depending on the relevant federal laws could end up making the railroad pay more than the value the government was looking for (basically a penalty award for negligence, if I understand it correctly).

My opinion, for as little as that is worth:

-There is a strong chance that the parties may settle before going to court, many lawsuits are settled. It saves the cost of a trial, and both sides get something out of it, the government recoups some of its costs, and the railroad isn't hit with a heavy payout (or its insurer). 

-If it does go to trial, it is likely that the government unless the railroad was negligent, will recoup the full cost of fighting the fire, and whatever the judgement is, likely the railroads liability insurance will pick it up. Keep in mind I suspect the railroad already has liability insurance that takes into account the risk of steam engines igniting a fire, the way any liability insurance looks at risk, so likely even if there is a judgement against the railroad likely it won't raise their rates to the point they can't afford it, unless they have had enough claims where the risk level is raised on them. 

I think the government in this case isn't stupid, and knows that if it results in putting the railroad out of business it will generate a lot of bad publicity and to be honest unless the guy doing this is someone with a vendetta against steam engines (ya know, one of them Diesel-lovin' wackos) or someone who saw the movie Bambi too often and it rotted their brains, likely any settlement or award will end up not being catastrophic. PGE on the other hand was not just found to be negligent in the particular fire in question, but had a long, long record of such incidents, not to mention a number of other judgements for corporate negligence, PGE is almost a poster child for a poor corporate actor. 

 

 

The person who dies with the best toys dies a happy person

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