The family of a woman killed in an accident last year at Domtar's Ashdown, Ark., plant is suing a company that provides rail cars to the mill.
Velma Marie Perkins, 52, died Sept. 18 when a Kiamichi Railroad car crashed into an overhead structure that collapsed, knocking her to the track, according to a complaint filed on behalf of her husband, Ronald Perkins Jr., and the couple's three children by Little Rock lawyer Thomas McGowan. The complaint was initially filed in Little River County, Ark., Circuit Court in March. Last week, Kiamichi's lawyers removed the case to federal court in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas.
Kiamichi's general manager in Ashdown declined to comment.
The suit alleges Kiamichi, which contracts with Domtar to provide railroad cars used to ship the company's products, delivered cars—including the one Velma Perkins was using—which were taller than any cars previously used at the mill either on that day or in the days before Velma Perkins was killed.
Little River County Coroner Roddy Smith estimated Velma Perkins had already died when the first call for help was received at 8:10 a.m. Sept 18 by Little River County Sheriff's Office, according to earlier reports. An ambulance arrived about 10 minutes later, but there was nothing paramedics could do. Perkins was an equipment helper on the switch engine in the shipping department and had worked for Domtar since 1991.
The suit accuses Kiamichi of negligence and seeks to recover damages for wrongful death, compensatory damages including funeral expenses and punitive damages meant to deter future similar conduct.
In an answer Kiamichi filed April 29 in state court, the railroad company denies any wrongdoing. The answer, filed on Kiamichi's behalf by Little Rock lawyer Joseph McKay, claims liability for Velma Perkins' death cannot be placed squarely on Kiamichi and that if blame is to be assigned, Velma Perkins herself and Domtar should be found at fault.
Domtar spokeswoman Tammy Waters said the company will not comment on pending litigation.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey. No hearings are scheduled.