Family of Motorist in Deadly Metro-North Crash Plans to Sue

Ellen Brody and five passengers died in February crash.

ByABC News
May 5, 2015, 5:58 PM

— -- The family of a motorist involved in a deadly crash with a Metro-North train outside of New York City plans to sue, saying the crossing where the accident happened is unsafe.

Ellen Brody and five train passengers were killed in the Feb. 3 crash, which happened after Brody’s SUV stopped on the tracks near Valhalla, New York, on the service’s Harlem Line.

Philip Russotti, a lawyer for Brody’s family, filed two notices of claim -- one against Metro North, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as well as Westchester County and the town of Mount Pleasant, New York, where the accident happened, and a second claim against New York state.

According to a press release issued May 4 by Russotti’s law firm, “The horrific accident was not the fault of Ellen Brody.”

Instead, the claims assert that the collision was caused by the “hazardous” nature of the railroad crossing, which caused Brody -- a 49-year-old mother of three -- to unknowingly become trapped on the tracks with insufficient time to react.

The claims cite a witness, whom ABC News has identified as Rick Hope, who was in the car directly behind Brody’s. According to the claims, this witness, like Brody, was not aware of the approaching train until it was “immediately upon her”.

“I gesture to come back,” said Hope in an interview with Gannett's Lohud website, “and she turns walks and gets back in the car, slight hesitation and then moves forward and then at that instant, the train comes."

The claims list what they consider multiple hazards and defects in the crossing. The law firm’s press release states, “Her death was caused by a combination of factors, including the skewed interplay between the roadway and railroad tracks which restricted her line of sight; the presence of a building alongside the tracks at the intersection which also interfered with her line of sight; and insufficient signage and lighting to advise motorists of the crossing in time to be prepared for it.”

According to the claims, another auto-train accident occurred at the same crossing in 1984.

The parties mentioned in the claims have not responded to requests for comment.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of train passengers killed when a train collided with Ellen Brody’s vehicle.