After a lengthy investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cites a train engineer’s poor eyesight as a contribution factor in the Oklahoma freight train accident that killed the engineer and two others in a railroad accident that caused nearly $15M in damage.
The investigation into the accident found that the engineer had suffered from poor vision for almost his entire life and that he had difficult distinguishing between read and green railroad signals.
Dr. Mary Pat McKay testified at the NTSB hearing that the unidentified engineer’s eyesight fluctuated from day-to-day and that the a medical examination in 2010 failed to perform a standard color vision test. Dr. McKay also told the NTSB that the engineer had made 50 visits to an eye doctor in the three years prior to the train accident as he suffered from both cataracts and glaucoma.
The NTSB chairman, Deborah Hersman, said that the rail companies are responsible for ensuring that employees are fit for the duties of their roles as a matter of public safety. Union Pacific, however, denied that the engineer’s vision problems contributed to the train accident.
Negligence in Employment or Negligent Entrustment
It appears that Union Pacific may have been negligent in employing the engineer or failing to properly screen him for health problems. An employer may be held liable for the tortious acts of an employee if they were negligent in allowing an employee to engage in a particular act, in this case engineering a freight train.
The families of those killed in the accident may also have a valid claim against Union Pacific for “negligent entrustment” for negligently providing the engineer with a dangerous instrumentality which caused death to their loved ones.