Should BNSF pay this trespasser $5,668,351.87?

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Monday, November 30, 2009

Hear ye, hear ye! Come now the plaintiffs, Helen and Jerry Gable, to the Circuit Court of Lee County, Miss., in Tupelo, to pick the fat pockets of BNSF Railway and several of its employees. Their legal representative, Roy O. Parker & Associates, also of Tupelo, alleges that on the afternoon of Oct. 15, 2006, Helen is “exercising due care” as she stands on the tracks of BNSF’s Memphis, Tenn.-Birmingham, Ala., line on the outskirts of Tupelo taking photographs of her niece’s daughter, when along beside her comes a big fat freight train belching much noise and honking of horn.
Helen tries to flee. But six feet down the slope from the tracks she catches her foot in rocks and falls. Whereupon a piece of metal “cable, wire or banding” swinging from a freight car strikes and grievously injures her right leg. She suffers much pain. Six surgeries are required to repair the damage done that afternoon.
Roy O. Parker & Associates says it’s all BNSF’s fault. It has a duty to mark its property “Private Property - No Tresspassing.” How was Helen to know she was trespassing on private property without the owner’s permission? Do Mississippi’s schools teach that railroads are owned by the state government or Barack Obama, thus making them public property?
Further, contends Roy O. Parker & Associates, BNSF has a duty to “prevent people accessing its tracks for purposes of pleasure.” It has a duty not to run its trains too fast (the speed limit at the scene of this event is 60 mph) and to be sure that its trains do not violate said speed limit. It has a duty to inspect its tracks to remove things that might become attached to its cars and thereby injure trespassers such as Helen. Its conductor has a duty to stop its trains before they injure trespassers such as Helen, when such people are seen to be in peril from a train fast approaching at 60 mph.
There is much more to this sad story. For instance, says Roy O. Parker & Associates, Helen and husband Jerry were forced to suspend their sex lives during the course of her recovery. Read all that Roy O. Parker has to say, at
But Helen’s pain can be assuaged. Merely $5 million from the prodigious resources of BNSF Railway would make Helen feel she did not suffer in vain, suggests Roy O. Parker & Associates to the Circuit Court of Lee County, Miss. That would cover mental anguish, pain and suffering, and the suspension of her sex life. Another $326,626.87 would recompense Helen for her medical treatment. And another $361,725 would make Jerry feel less sad about his loss of income while taking care of Helen at home. So that’s $5,668,351.87.
To the court of public opinion, I ask, what say you? As railfans, you know that to step onto railroad property makes you liable to arrest and fines. If you don’t know this, you’ve been asleep the past 50 years. Therefore, what does BNSF Railway owe Helen and Jerry because Helen ignored BNSF’s property rights and put herself in grave peril?
For more on Roy O. Parker and personal-injury litigation in Mississippi, read—Fred W. Frailey (

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