Jury decides in favor of Sarah Jones' family in civil trial agai - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Jury decides in favor of Sarah Jones' family in civil trial against CSX

(Source: WCSO) (Source: WCSO)

After deliberations Monday, the jury has decided to rule in favor of the plaintiff, Sarah Jones' family, in the civil trial against CSX Transportation. 

The jury decided unanimously to award the family of Sarah Jones 35 percent of the following numbers from CSX. The jury decided the value of $1,992,083 for pain and suffering and then $9,229,416 for the full value of Sarah’s life.

Jurors were tasked with coming up with the percentage of responsibility, many were named in the paper for being possibly responsible. CSX was on the paper and they did receive the highest percentage at 35 percent responsible. Putting CSX responsible for roughly $3.9 million awarded to the family. 

The parents of Sarah Jones filed the suit against CSX after Jones was struck and killed by a train in 2014. 

Lawyers for CSX called only one witness to the stand, the location manager for the movie. He testified that it was clear after having conversations with the director that they were going to get the shots for the film anyway, even without permission from CSX.

The jury had been working on the verdict at the Chatham County Courthouse since noon on Monday. Closing statements got the morning started, and jurors heard from the plaintiff more about how Sarah Jones had no idea a train would be barreling towards her on Feb. 20, 2014. 

Pictures of Jones were shown as the family attorney reminded the jury how they have to work to determine if damages should be awarded for the full value of her life and also the pain and suffering prior to her death. The plaintiff explained again for jurors how CSX internal emails showed the willingness of the company to work with the filmmakers before the denial of permission to film for Midnight Rider on the Doctortown Trestle. The request was denied the day of the shoot. The plaintiff also reminded jurors of how CSX's conductor and engineer never braked before impact, leading to the tragedy.

The defense claims the conductor and engineer operating the train killing Jones had 80 years of experience between them, reporting they didn't see the people on the tracks. The issue of trespassing also came up, the plaintiff saying the two trains passing the film crew safely should have reported the illegal activity - before the third train struck a hospital bed prop on the tracks, leaving Sarah Jones dead. 

"Call it in, just call it in the bulletin, costs nothing. Push the button on the dispatcher and say 'something funky is going on out here on the Doctortown Trestle and the trains behind us need to know about it," said Jeff Harris, Jones family attorney. 

"The horn sound was deafening. The crew on that trestle knew a train was coming. The problem is they didn't know what to do because their crew didn't give them any instructions on how to get off of the trestle," said CSX Attorney, Jay Traynham. 

A statement from Jones' parents, Richard and Elizabeth Jones, was released Monday after the verdict handed down. 

Elizabeth and I have spent the last three plus years wanting to understand how our daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Jones, tragically lost her life. That search has now come to a close. Sarah's life was a bright beacon of hope that was snuffed out too soon. Elizabeth and I want to think our attorney, Jeff Harris, his partners and exceptional staff, who worked so hard for Sarah. We also would like to thank our Columbia attorney Jake Moore for his guidance. We felt that this trial was necessary in order to learn what happened that tragic day of February 20, 2014. It is only with the discovery of what could have been done differently that we might avoid another similar tragic loss of life. We have learned much from this trial. No doubt that the decisions made by those in charge of Film Allman, LLC were foolosh, criminal and, in our view, selfish. That said, this trial disclosed a number of exceptionally poor judgements and ignored opportunities by CSX Transportation  to prevent this tragedy. Frankly, I believe that the evidence in this trial indicated that CSX has systemic issues that need corrected. We miss you Sarah. 

Tuesday, CSX released a statement concerning the verdict. 

CSX is deeply sympathetic to the terrible loss suffered by the family of Ms. Sarah Jones, but respectfully disagrees with the conclusions reached by the jury today and will repeal.

Here is the breakdown of who the jury believes is at fault for Jones' death, besides CSX.

Twenty-eight percent at fault, according to the jury, is Randall Miller. He directed the film.

They also found landowner, Rayonier Performance Fibers, LLC at fault along with two film producers and the assistant director.

We are hoping to hear more from the Jones family later this week.

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