Matthews suit moves along

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The lawsuit filed in the 2019 death of Jonah Matthews is making its way through the St. Clair County judicial system, with a tentative jury trial date set and a few notable filings completed. 

In the suit, attorneys for David Matthews, father of the late Jonah Matthews, allege that “negligent and careless acts or omissions” resulted in Jonah’s death when the tractor he was driving was struck by a train near Fults the evening of June 14, 2019. 

Filed on Feb. 25, the lawsuit is against Glendell H. Farms, Ken Hartman, Anita Hartman, Joann Hartman and Union Pacific Railroad Company, with the attorneys seeking damages in excess of $50,000 from each of those individuals or entities.

The Hartmans and Glendell Farms responded to the initial filing on March 22, responding to every allegation in the lawsuit and advancing claims in their defense. 

The most common response was that the Hartmans and their farm deny allegations made in the lawsuit such as that the grade of the hill approaching the railroad crossing where Jonah was killed made it difficult to see southbound trains and that they failed to clear overgrown vegetation that obstructed the line of sight at the crossing, 

“The defendants state that the sole proximate cause of Jonah Matthews’ death, and damages alleged by the plaintiff, was Jonah Matthews’ own conduct in failing to exercise reasonable care for his own safety, including but not limited to his failure to stop and look in both directions and yield right-of-way to any oncoming train on said railroad crossing, when he knew from using the railroad crossing numerous times in the past, that trains frequent said railroad crossing,” the response states. 

The Hartmans and Glendell Farms also argue seven affirmative defenses including that “the contributory fault on the part of Jonah Matthews… is more than 50 percent of the cause of his damages or death” so the family cannot recover damages from them and that the incident was “the result of superseding, intervening causes, which were not perceived by the defendants and could not reasonably have been foreseen by the defendants under similar circumstances.” 

The Hartmans and Glendell Farms demanded a trial by jury in that filing, and a tentative jury trial is set for April 11, 2022 in St. Clair County. 

Union Pacific Railroad also also responded to the lawsuit, doing so on April 16.

Like its fellow defendants, the railroad denied many of the allegations leveled in the lawsuit including that it acted improperly or failed to act in regards to the crossing where Matthews died.

It also denied several specifics stated in the lawsuit, such as the number of trains using the crossing, the speed at which those trains drive and that it “owned, operated, maintained and/or controlled” the railroad crossing. 

The Hartmans did not deny Union Pacific’s role in the railroad crossing in their response. 

Union Pacific made three affirmative defenses, including that Jonah died because he failed to take certain precautions and therefore his family cannot seek recovery from the railroad and that Jonah “entered the crossing without invitation or permission and at a time when such entry was expressly prohibited by the operation of the train,” making him “a trespasser at the time of his entry onto the crossing.”

The case is scheduled for a status hearing at 9 a.m. on Nov. 23. 

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