Union Pacific sues after barge runs into railroad bridge

Michelle Massey Apr. 30, 2010, 6:52am

Union Pacific Railroad is suing a barge company after one of its barges equipped with a crane, failed to slow or change course and struck a steel structure of a railroad bridge.

The damaged bridge is owned by Union Pacific Railroad Co.

Union Pacific filed suit against Lil Al's Towing and Caillou Island Towing Co. and the M/V Lil Al Cenac on April 27 in federal court of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

According to the lawsuit, the M/V Lil Al Cenac on Feb. 11 was heading south on the Atchafalya River with the Barge PMT 101, that was equipped or carrying a crane as it approached the open span of the railroad bridge. Union Pacific claims the barge operator made no effort to slow or change course. The crane boom extended beyond the bow of the barge and was pushed by the tug into the steel structure of the ridge, approximately 35 feet west of the open span. The bridge also was damaged by raised spuds on the barge, according to the complaint.

Union Pacific claims the defendants failed to navigate and operate their vessel and tow, did not keep and maintain an alert and efficient lookout, misjudged the distance between the vessel and tow to the open bridge, and improperly navigated by not accounting for the current. Further, Union Pacific claims the vessel was underpowered, undermanned, manned by improperly trained persons or incompetent persons who were inattentive to their duties.

"Due to negligence, and the unseaworthiness of the vessel and its tow, there was a striking of the Railroad Bridge causing damage to an integral part of the Bridge and consequential economic damage," the complaint states.

Unions Pacific seeks to recover costs for the damage to immovable and movable property, the costs of restoring its property to pre-allision status, lost income, prejudgment interest and court costs.

New Orleans attorneys Robert C. Clotworthy, William H. Howard, III and Evan T. Caffrey of Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC are representing Union Pacific Railroad.

U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier is assigned to the case.

Case No 2:10cv01207

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