Burlington Northern Santa Fe says 4 lives not worth $6 million each

In December, Washington County Judge Ellen Maas derided what she called Burlington Northern Santa Fe's staggering misconduct in trying to cover its tracks in the 2003 deaths of four people at an Anoka railroad crossing. The jury in the case awarded the surviving families $6 million each.

Now, the railroad is contesting the judgment in the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and says those killed aren't worth that much money. Its lawyer, Tim Thornton, declined to put a different value on the lives of those killed, including Bridgette Shannon, 17, of Ramsey; Corey Chase, 20, of Coon Rapids; Brian Frazier, 20, of Ham Lake, and Harry Rhoades Jr., 20, of Blaine.

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Bob Pottroff, a Kansas attorney representing the families, said a value can indeed be placed on a relationship between these four young persons and their parents.

"Counsel, comfort, guidance, aid, assistance, advice, protection and companionship are worth something, and in Minnesota, the law says those are economic losses," Pottroff said. "Are those values worth $6 million? No, they're probably worth 10 times that, if we're going to be conservative.

The appeals process is expected to take years.

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