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Tram Accident at Houston Airport Raises Safety Protocol Questions

One airport construction worker was killed and another was seriously injured after an automated tram struck the men at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas. Maria Zuniga Ranjel, the wife of victim Juan Manuel Cordero, filed a lawsuit against Continental Airlines and the City of Houston in November 2010.

In her complaint, Ranjel seeks damages on behalf of her mentally incapacitated husband, alleging that Cordero has suffered physical disfigurement, physical impairment, lost earnings, and medical costs. She also seeks punitive and other damages in the lawsuit.

Cordero and Travis Turner were hit by the tram while conducting their normal duties on an elevated track, killing Turner while severely injuring Cordero. Ranjel is alleging that Continental Airlines, who manages contract work on the tram line, and the City of Houston failed to implement adequate safety measures that could have prevented the accident.

Ranjel has also named the company operating the tram system and Turner’s employer in the lawsuit. According to her complaint, Turner’s employer is liable because Turner escorted Cordero to the accident site, while the tram operation company is liable because it failed to “adequately monitor the line” for workers when operating the tram.

The tram operator, Johnson Controls, Inc., has denied liability, indicating that it followed applicable safety guidelines provided by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The company also pointed to uncertainty as to whether Cordero and Turner were in compliance with these guidelines at the time of the accident.

This lawsuit may translate to a call for more government regulation of unmanned airport trams, which are currently not monitored or regulated by federal or Texas agencies. If you need a civil engineer to determine liability and appear as an expert witness in your case, contact Engineering Expert Witnesses today for a free initial consultation.

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