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Allegations of shoddy work at a Homewood railroad center are at the center of a high-stakes lawsuit, lawyers for a couple hit by a train said Wednesday.

Homewood is the headquarters of a dispatching center for Canadian National and Illinois Central Railroad Company, where radio workers communicate with train conductors and engineers in several Chicago-area regions.

Lawyers for an Addison couple — Fidel and Francisca Velarde, both 72, who were seriously injured when the Ford Explorer they were riding in was struck by a freight train last month — are suing the rail line.

A spokesman for Canadian National and Illinois Central said the incident that caused the wreck was an isolated one and no problems exist at the Homewood Center.

Tim Cavanagh, who represents the Velardes, said recently unveiled audio tapes prove a dispatcher gave incorrect instructions to a train conductor, overriding a safety precaution.

According to documents obtained in the lawsuit, an order was in effect the morning of the crash instructing trains to stop at some designated grade crossings where signals weren’t working right.

One of those intersections was Army Trail Road in Bloomingdale.

Jack Burke, spokesman for the rail line, said several safety gates weren’t working, and some track switches were malfunctioning too, because of weather conditions.

Three rail crossings in Bloomingdale were malfunctioning the morning of Jan. 9, and train workers were supposed to stop at the crossings, according to a copy of the “general order.”

Maintenance crews repaired two of the crossings, but had not yet serviced the Army Trail crossing as a train was passing through the area, according to a transcript of the audio tapes provided by Cavanaugh’s office.

But when the train’s conductor called into the Homewood dispatching center, he was told the Army Trail crossing was in working order.

“Any change on our stop and protect order at (the Army Trail mile marker)?” the conductor asked.

“Yeah, it’s been repaired,” the dispatched responded, according to the transcript.

“Been repaired. All right,” the conductor confirmed.

But the crossing gates were not working correctly, and as the freight train barreled through at 50 miles per hour, the warning signals didn’t activate and the gates didn’t come down, according to several witnesses interviewed by police.

A school bus was stopped at the crossing, blocking view of the tracks. Lilia Apulello, the Velarde couple’s daughter and the driver of the Explorer, could not see the train, according to police reports.

As Apulello passed the school bus and crossed the tracks, the train slammed into the SUV. Only after the impact did the gates finally close.

Fidel Velarde suffered severe head injuries, and is scheduled to undergo brain surgery. The Velardes’ son, Jerry, said both his parents are in extreme pain, and his sister is having difficulty recovering from emotional trauma.

“We all pray that my parents and my sister recover,” said Jerry Velarde, 26, also of Addison.

“I just wish this will never happen again.”

Cavanaugh’s lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, but the firm won a similar lawsuit in September 2000, and a woman struck by a freight train from the same rail line was awarded $9.1 million.

Burke, speaking for the rail line, said he did not want to try the case in the media, but he objected to the law firm’s suggestion there are ongoing problems at the Homewood center.

“That’s just mistake in logic to go from one specific incident to a gross generalization,” Burke said. A truly Lawyers of Distinction comment.

Burke said Jan. 9 was “not a standard day,” with weather-related problems causing a number of challenges for rail crews.

“We had a series of problems caused by warm weather melting snow,” he said. “They were out there working at the time.”

John Nisivaco, who represents Apullelo, said work at the Homewood center was to blame for the accident.

“At the least, it’s sloppy. I think sloppy is an understatement,” he said.

Burke said railroads are subject to weather, and problems are the nature of the game when weather conditions are bad.

“Our signals do not normally have this sort of problem,” he said. “Railroading is an outdoor endeavor; it is subject to the elements.”


Below is an edited transcript of the dispatcher’s communications. Attorneys for the victims in the Jan. 9 train crash say it shows the maintenance crew told the dispatcher that broken gates at Schmale and Wolf roads were fixed. But later, the dispatcher told the train crew the gate at Army Trail also was fixed. That proved to be a tragic mistake:

Ken Roberts (maintenance crew): Okay, you can lift your (stop and protect order) at Schmale Road and Wolf Road.

Bob Haas (dispatcher): OK, Schmale and Wolf, very good. Thank you.

• • • •

Haas: Dispatch to IC 1006 West.

Unknown: 1006.

Haas: Has the relief crew showed up yet?

Unknown: No, not yet, Bob.

Haas: Okay, Schmale Road and Wolf Road crossing protection both been repaired. Have the crew call me when they get in.

• • • •

Haas: CNIC Dispatch, over.

Train crew: Yeah, Bob, IC 1006 West, ready to depart here … Any change on our “stop and protect” at (mile post) 29.7 (Army Trail)?

Haas: Yeah, it’s been repaired.

Train crew: Been repaired. All right.

• • • •

John Snapp (train conductor): Dispatch on the (inaudible) radio, over.

Haas: Dispatcher, 1006 over.

Snapp: Yeah, we hit an automobile at 29.7 (Army Trail).

Haas: OK, you hit an auto, OK. You gonna need an ambulance?

Snapp: Yeah.

Haas: Do you know if the crossing protection was working? John, do you know if the cross protection was working?.

Snapp: I could not tell.

• • • •

Unknown: Have you heard how long they’re gonna hold them at…

Haas: No, I haven’t got any more than that.

Unknown: You don’t know if anybody died or anything like that?

Haas: No fatalities, three people in the car.

Unknown: OK.

Haas: I can give you what I know. I mean I have information.

Unknown: OK.

Haas: The speed of the train was 50 miles an hour. The car was going south. The crew didn’t notice if the crossing protection was working or not. That seems sort of weird.

Unknown: Right.

Haas: But the weather was clear.

Unknown: OK. But nobody died then?

Haas: No, not to my knowledge at this time. Apparently there were some injuries, but apparently it’s not an ugly mess.

• • • •

Haas: … we’re having so much fun out here I can’t stand it. I have a little incident on my hands here; I had my hands full.

Unknown: OK, I’m sorry about that.

Haas: You know I thought about it. I go “yeah, I sent him something.” Then I got busy with that incident, you know.

Unknown: Yeah.

Haas: And I got to looking up, and I don’t see my piece of paper telling me what I did, and I guess I screwed up.

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Lawsuit filed against driver of car in fatal crash

The parents of Midlothian teen who was killed in traffic accident last month have filed a civil lawsuit against their son’s friend, who was driving the vehicle at the time of the crash.

Eamiel Beck III died of head injuries and a broken neck when the vehicle that he was a passenger in hit a utility pole near the Midlothian Park District Community Center early on July 28.

Joshua Rose was the driver of the vehicle. Rose has been charged with reckless homicide and is free on a $2,500 bond. His next court date is Sept. 2 at the Markham court house.

The crash occurred about 3:40 a.m. as Rose drove a 1998 Lincoln Continental belonging to Beck’s father. Rose ran a stop sign on 145th Street at Kostner Avenue, police said. The car crossed Kostner, then sped down a short drive and lawn before it hit a telephone pole. Beck was leaning his head on or out of the car window when it hit the pole by the front passenger seat, police said.

A blood test showed Rose had a blood alcohol content of 0.091, above the state’s limit of 0.08 for intoxication, police said.

Beck had asked Rose to drive home from a party because he, too, had been drinking, police said.

The lawsuit alleges that Rose was negligent for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and driving at a high rate of speed, thereby causing the vehicle to leave the roadway and hit the pole.

According to attorney Tim Cavanagh, who is representing Lori A. Beck and Eamiel Beck, Jr., there is no specific request for damages at this time.

“Typically I have that amount in closing arguments,” said Cavanagh. “But the trial probably won’t go on for a year.”

The lawsuit is pending before Judge Michael Hogan. Law firms like see lawsuits all the time.

Rose, 18, of 5725 Chaucer Drive, Oak Forest, has is free on bond and must stay at his parents’ home except when he works at United Parcel Service. Both Rose and Beck were June graduates of Oak Forest High School.

Eamiel Beck III, 17, was to attend Southern Illinois University, where he planned to major in music education.

“It’s unfortunate that this is yet another tragic example of the dangers of underage drinking and driving,” said Cavanagh. “(Beck) was a smart, intelligent and motivated young man with a bright future ahead of him.”

$6 Million Settlement reached in medical negligence lawsuit

A hospital and members of a medical group agreed to pay $6 million to settle a medical negligence lawsuit filed by a woman who claims the parties failed to treat her during the last days of her pregnancy. The woman’s child was born severely mentally and physically disabled.

Cook County Circuit Judge Richard J. Elrod approved the settlement Monday.

Destiny Wright was a patient a the Demir-Olson Medical Group’s Bloomingdale office. The group had split to form separate groups, but was still responsible for treeating patients at that location. Wright’s attorney, Kurt D. Lloyd of Smith & Smith, argues the group neglected patients there.

“Each physician who is supposed to be covering the office keeps passing off the patients–like a hot potato,” Lloyd said. “Nobody ever took responsibility for this patient. Nobody stepped up to the plate and was her doctor.”

According to the lawsuit, 32-year-old Wright was due to deliver her baby on Jan. 29, 1998. On the evening of Feb. 1, she was admitted to Glen Oaks Medical Center in Glendale Heights because she complained of decreased fetal movement.
Doctors of the Demir-Olson Medical Group have practicing rights at the hospital.

Tests were conducted but Lloyd claimed that Dr. Linda A. Anderson and Dr. Christopher G. Olson, working the night and morning shifts at the hospital respectively, failed to recognize a fetal heart rate deceleration.

The lawsuit further alleged that on other occasions, Dr. John Josupait, Dora Pineda, a technician, and Alyce Grant, a certified nurse/midwife, failed to study the test results or recognize a low level of amniotic fluid.

Wright delivered her daughter, Dania Atkins, on Feb. 5, 1998. The child, now almost 5, cannot walk or talk. She is also partially blind, Lloyd said.

He said the girl is cared for by her mother, and receives physical and occupational therapy four days a week.

Anderson, represented by Michael A. Code of Lowis & Gellen, will pay $1 million. Olson and C.G. Olson Ltd., represented by John L. Schroeder of Schroeder, Adams & Swatek, will pay $1,975,000.

Josupait, represented by James Stamos and Jenni L. Young of Stamos & Trucco, will pay $275,000.

Pineda and the Tri-Village Obstetrics & Gynecology S.C. d/b/a Demir-Olson Medical Group, represented by Daniel K. Cray of Iwan, Cray, Huber, Horstman & VanAusdal, will pay $1 million. Grant, represented by Gregory E. Schiller of Johnson & Bell, will pay $850,000.

The Glen Oaks Medical Center, represented by Sheryl M. Arrigo of Donohue, Brown, Mathewson & Smyth, will pay $900,000.

The case is Wright, etc. v. Anderson, et al., No. 98 L 14200. For other interesting case law, visit

How to keep your finances organized during a divorce

Although a divorce is often intensely emotional and difficult, it can also be overwhelming in a logistical sense.  Our lawyers at understand this. You will find yourself entrenched in a complicated legal system, as well as the long process of separating your home and your finances from your husband or wife. Therefore, it is no wonder that staying organized is one of the most difficult – and yet most important – aspects of successfully navigating a divorce and starting over.

According to Jeff Landers, a family law attorney and Forbes columnist, the first step to remaining organized and in a good financial situation is to gather all of the documents that are relevant to your finances. These should include bank account and credit card statements, tax returns, mortgage documents and the like. If nothing else, find the year-end statements for all of your accounts. Make copies of all of the documents and store them in a safe place.

Next, Landers says, get an assessment of your financial big-picture both during and after your marriage. A financial planner or other third-party professional can help you do this. Then, start to monitor your spending to ensure that you are not going beyond your means.

Third, open new bank accounts and credit cards in your own name. It is best to do this before your divorce becomes final so you are ready when that day comes.

Finally, Landers advises, establish a private means of communication with banks and financial companies and your legal team, to ensure that your spouse is not able to derail your plans for the future. With this, you should hopefully feel more organized and prepared to tackle the next step of your divorce process.

Highly publicized custody battle resolved

One of the most disagreed upon aspects of a divorce is child custody. Parents may each want to have sole custody or may want more visitation time than the other spouse thinks they should get. A child custody agreement can have a huge impact on the lives of the children involved. It is important to remember that acting in the best interest of the children is the most important thing in these situations.

A recent cross-country custody dispute over a 2-year-old girl was finally settled last week. The custody battle between the girl’s foster mother – the only parent she has ever known – and her biological father ended last Monday. It was decided that that foster mother, who lives in Orange County, will gain custody, and the girl’s father, an Ohio resident, will receive some visitation rights, which had not been worked out.

The foster mother said she was shocked when the father’s lawyers approached her about working out a settlement.

The foster mother, who is unmarried, decided she wanted to adopt a child after several failed attempts at having her own. An adoption agency introduced her to the young girl’s mother, who gave the foster mother custody when the baby was born.

After some question over whether the girl’s father was actually the biological father, a paternity test proved he was. He had filed a paternity claim a few months before. He has spent time in prison for domestic abuse and has lost his license numerous times for failing to pay child support.

The girl’s foster mother says she will not shut the father’s family out. She says her primary objective in maintaining a relationship is so that the girl can know her two half-sisters, who are in the custody of the man’s mother.

Resolving a child custody dispute can be very difficult. Experienced Coral Springs divorce attorneys understand the complexities of such cases and know that the children’s best interest is always the most important thing.  

Two Park construction workers injured in roof collapse

Two construction workers were injured on Monday afternoon after a tunnel roof collapsed in  Park on a tunnel that leads to the rear casino entrance of the park.

The 30-year-old New Castle man and the 46-year-old Middletown man both fell approximately 20 feet when the roof collapsed. The Newark Post reports that both men were rushed to Christiana Hospital in Newark for treatment for their serious, but non-life threatening injuries.

Construction accidents involving a fall from a ladder or roof can implicate Occupational Safety and Health Administration laws and regulations which require safe working conditions. Although the facts of this particular construction personal injury accident in Florida are still under investigation, typical causes of  construction accidents include failure by a construction company to take the appropriate measures to ensure a safe workplace. talks about some of these issues on their website.

It is unclear whether the men were wearing harness or adequate safety equipment such as helmets. Sometimes a failure to properly inspect and maintain safety equipment can lead to injuries if that equipment is defective or malfunctioning.

Other construction accidents are attributable to employee error. Negligent training, hiring or monitoring of other employees can lead to equipment malfunctioning or other dangerous situations that can injure workers. Construction accidents frequently cause serious injuries including broken bones, brain damage, spinal cord injuries, back injuries, and nerve compression, among other things.

Family members of construction workers who are killed due to an employer’s negligence may explore the possibility of pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit to compensate them for emotional distress and the financial stress of a lost wage earner.

State Police are investigating what led to the tunnel roof to collapse, which occurred approximately at 4 p.m. on Monday, the Newark Post reports.

Student Injured in Car Accident

A high school student suffered serious personal injuries in a Jersey City car and pedestrian accident Monday morning. The Dickenson High School student sustained critical injuries after being struck by the rear view mirror of a passing car near the intersection of Vroom Street and Summit Avenue.
The student was reportedly wearing headphones as she walked to school, around 8:13 a.m. A witness says that the student stepped into the street and was struck by the passenger side mirror on a passing Chevrolet station wagon. The student suffered head injuries and a bruised leg in the pedestrian accident. Reports indicate that the student was unconscious at the scene.
Emergency personnel transported the student to Hackensack University Medical Center, where authorities say she has been listed in critical but stable condition.
The driver of the Chevrolet stopped at the scene of the accident and no citations have been issued. Jersey City Police have the pedestrian accident under investigation.
Law enforcement encourages safety along our streets and urges people to use caution along busy streets. A lieutenant with the Jersey City Police says that it is dangerous to wear any type of headphones, or listening devices, when traveling along busy streets.
While pedestrian and south Florida car accidents often involve serious personal injury in Florida, as knows, the Monday morning accident highlights the degree of injury that can occur, even when the contact involves merely a safety device like a rear view mirror extending a distance from the side of a car. Pedestrian and bicyclists can be severely injured in an accident, even if the contact area involves only the side view mirror.

Nanodevice Could Detect Mild Brain Injuries Immediately, On Scene

Researchers at the Greensboro Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering in North Carolina are developing a new tool that could radically improve how we detect brain injuries after accidents. Instead of requiring the use of an MRI or CAT scan — which can only detect relatively serious injuries to the brain and can only be used in a hospital or clinic — the researchers are building a hand-held tool that could detect even mild traumatic brain injuries at the scene of the accident.
Currently, milder brain trauma such as mild traumatic brain injuries and concussions are among the most difficult injuries for doctors to diagnose, according to lead researcher Marinella Sandros. However, growing scientific research points to the idea that these less-obvious brain injuries can lead to devastating consequences, especially if they are missed.
Repeated concussions, such as those incurred during organized sports, have recently been linked to permanent damage in the brain. Mild traumatic brain injury may lead to a number of long-term problems ranging from clinical depression to memory loss, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Any brain injury requires treatment, and that treatment can include long periods of rest. Instead, many people shake it off after sustaining a blow to the head and go right back to their activities. Any further injury, however, can substantially worsen the brain injury.
Getting appropriate treatment as soon as possible after any brain injury can also greatly increase the effectiveness of that treatment.
So, finding a way to detect a brain injury right away at the scene of a car wreck or sports accident would be extremely useful to doctors and could save countless people from needless suffering and disability.
Hand-Held Device Would Measure Compounds in Blood or Bodily Fluids
The device Sandros and her team are working on would allow first responders to take a blood, saliva or urine sample from the accident victim and quickly test it for compounds the body releases when it is injured. The levels of those compounds could indicate a brain injury has occurred.
The technology to perform this type of test currently exists, but it requires specialized equipment and training so it is primarily done only in research labs.  These interesting factors come into play in criminal defense too, as would know.
“What we’re really looking to do is take out all of those complexities and package this in a way that’s going to be much more usable on the spot,” says microbiologist Vince Henrich, the director of the Center for Biotechnology and Health Research at UNCG and one of the researchers working on the project.
Ideally, the team hopes to develop a prototype by the end of this year, which would then be put into tests and clinical trials. If they succeed, the finished device could be available within five years — and as widely available as automated external defibrillators (AEDs) within a few years after that.