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JURY VERDICT WARNS CONRAIL TO IMPROVE CROSSINGS

 JURY VERDICT WARNS CONRAIL TO IMPROVE CROSSINGS
 KENTON, Ohio, July 6 /PRNewswire/ -- When the jury awarded the


family of David Scofield $1.5 million for his death at a railroad crossing in Hardin County, Ohio, they were thinking of his grieving wife, children and parents. But they may have been preventing many unnecessary deaths in the future by pressing Conrail to eliminate at least one proven dangerous crossing.
 The family of 32-year-old Scofield has offered to reduce the amount of the jury's verdict by one dollar for every two dollars Conrail spends installing crossing gates and flashing lights at the Wheeler Street crossing in Mount Victory, a hamlet near Kenton, Ohio.
 "It is important to the family of David Scofield that both Conrail and their neighbors in Hardin County understand that the main goal in bringing this lawsuit was to force Conrail to re-evaluate its crossing programs," said Michael W. Kerensky, Houston attorney who tried the case against the railroad last week. Co-counsel for Scofield's survivors, including his widow and two young children, was Kenton attorney Keith Lange.
 The attorneys filed the wrongful death suit against Conrail two years ago, alleging weeds were obstructing Scofield's vision and the train was traveling at excessive speed.
 Last week a jury agreed Conrail was negligent and awarded Scofield's estate $1,555,000.
 "Conrail put profit and arrogance before safety," said Kerensky, when the jury verdict was read following the two-week trial. "They believed life was cheap in Hardin County. The jury was brave to tell them they were wrong."
 Kerensky said the verdict should force the railroad to take a closer look at crossing safety in Hardin County. Three months after Scofield's death, a student was killed when her car was hit at an unguarded crossing in Mount Victory. Since those two deaths, a group of citizens have been petitioning for lights and gates at the crossings.
 Conrail offered to install the systems if the village would close two of its seven crossings, but the village council rejected the proposal.
 The railroad tells residents it can't install the systems unless the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio orders it, but "this is not true," said Kerensky. "The trial proved Conrail is obligated to install lights at dangerous crossings. If they do so, it is at their own expense; if PUCO orders the lights installed, local government or federal tax money pays at least 90 percent of the cost."
 There is only enough public money to address a small fraction of the dangerous crossings, according to Rand Patterson, head of the Railroad Division of the Public Utilities Commission who testified at the trial.
 Will Conrail continue to play this deadly waiting game?
 "The Scofield family is giving the railroad a gift that could save many, many lives -- at least in Hardin County," said Kerensky.
 -0- 7/6/92
 /CONTACT: Shirley Barr of Shirleybarr Public Relations, 713-622-4747, for Houston attorney Michael Kerensky/ CO: Michael Kerensky, attorney ST: Texas, Ohio IN: TRN SU:


BM -- CL012 -- 6774 07/06/92 17:20 EDT
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Date:Jul 6, 1992
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