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Appeals court rules Kentucky agency partially liable for train fatality


The Court of Appeals of Kentucky has upheld a lower court’s determination that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is partially liable for the death of a 19-year-old driver who was struck and killed by a passing train after he proceeded out of a construction zone.

The appeals court on Friday affirmed a Jefferson Circuit Court decision that had upheld a state Board of Claims order that the Transportation Cabinet, the state’s highway agency, is 20% responsible for the fatal March 29, 2016, accident that killed Zavier Froeber in Bullitt County, Kentucky.

Mr. Froeber was on his way to work when his vehicle was struck by a train after he left a work zone that was staffed by flaggers controlling traffic.

Mr. Froeber’s estate filed a claim with the Board of Claims asserting that state workers were negligent in setting up the work zone, since it obstructed Mr. Froeber’s view of the oncoming train.

A hearing officer found the Transportation Cabinet 20% liable for Mr. Froeber’s death and the Board of Claims subsequently upheld the determination.

The appeals court affirmed the $191,630 award, which represented 20% of Mr. Froeber’s calculated future earning capacity of $956,800.

The appeals court ruled that the state agency had a duty to warn motorists of an approaching train, and that its construction equipment obstructing that view served as a distraction to drivers.

The appeals panel agreed with the lower court that failing to warn motorists of the train was a violation of an “absolute, certain and imperative duty.”