FARGO--BNSF Railway, owner of an oil tanker train that derailed near Casselton and exploded in 2013, says that federal law may shield it from a civil lawsuit filed last month by the train's engineer.
Any injuries suffered by the engineer, Bryan Thompson of Fargo, "are the result of unknown causes for which BNSF is not responsible," the rail giant said in an answer to Thompson's complaint.
Thompson claims he has suffered from PTSD since the Dec. 30, 2013, accident, when the oil tanker he was operating collided with an oncoming grain train that veered off the tracks just west of Casselton. The result was a dramatic scene of fireballs and smoke rising into the air as crude oil burned.
BNSF was using a defective car, and the company did not properly inspect its tracks, Thompson alleges in his lawsuit, filed in Cass County District Court. The company also did not warn him of the dangers he faced carrying crude oil on the rails, he claims.
BNSF accepts no responsibility for any damages in the answer, which was provided by Thompson's attorney.
The company acknowledges that Thompson was the conductor of the derailed train and that "several oil tanker cars then caught fire and exploded," but it denies any negligence.
BNSF says that any injuries and damages to Thompson are the fault of actors over whom the company "had no control or right to control at the time of the alleged incident."
The company also claims that Thompson's suit may be blocked by federal laws like the Railroad Safety Act.
Thompson's attorney said he expects BNSF to rely on that argument.
"They may claim that they complied with all safety standards according to Federal Rail Safety Act, Federal Railroad Administration, Code of Federal Regulations, what have you, and therefore, they basically are immune from suit," said Minneapolis-based attorney Thomas Flaskamp.
In the answer, BNSF asks that the case be dismissed. It also demands a jury trial.