Attorneys claim victory, plan to continue lawsuit - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Attorneys claim victory, plan to continue zoo derailment lawsuit

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The view of the derailment at the Zoo from Air 3. The view of the derailment at the Zoo from Air 3.

LOUISVILLE, KY - A 3-year-old case against Louisville Zoo employees may go to trial. A judge ruled families who haven't settled with the city can pursue legal action against seven people who worked at the zoo.

The train derailment happened in 2009, but attorneys are claiming a victory. It's a win for the plaintiffs because it means a lawsuit can go forward.

Attorneys representing two families injured and affected by the accident plan to pursue a lawsuit seeking monetary damages.

Judge Frederic Cowan ruled Metro government is not responsible because of 'sovereign immunity,' but Louisville Metro Government is not in the clear. Kentucky laws state the government is liable for judgments against its employees.

"It's a game changer," Ron Hillerich said. Hillerich represents Cheri McKenzie, who suffered head injuries when the open air train went off the tracks. "This case is going to continue. The city is responsible for damages for those people," Hillerich said.

"These employees, through Louisville Metro Government, said we are not responsible for anything we do because we work for the government. Judge Cowan and a thorough 20-page opinion said, oh yes you are," said Chad Gardner, who represents Christopher Lankford.

Lankford's leg was crushed by the train, his 18-month-old daughter suffered head trauma and 7-week-old baby sustained a skull fracture.

Attorneys claim gross negligence and recklessness. Hillerich and Gardner have not settled with Metro government.

"These individual employees are now hung out in this case. These are the defendants in the case that are going to be, we're going to actually try the case against. There should be an impetus for the city to try and protect these employees and resolve these claims now," Ron Hillerich

A jury trial date is set for May 7, 2013. A spokesperson with the Jefferson County Attorney's Office said the county is evaluating whether to appeal.

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