Metro-North Railroad agrees to pay Darien family for father's death in 2013

CT Post
Daniel Tepfer
September 29, 2022

BRIDGEPORT — The family of a Darien man who died after being struck by a train in 2013 has reached a settlement with Metro-North Railroad, according to court documents.

Kevin Murphy's family had argued in its lawsuit that because the train that struck the father of five was a through train and not scheduled to stop at the Noroton Heights station where he died, it should not have been on a track adjacent to the platform.

The Murphy family has for years also argued that the Darien and Metropolitan Transportation Authority police departments' silence on the details of the accident resulted in an assumption by members of the public that Murphy had died by suicide.

“Now, over 9 years after being hit and killed by a train at the Noroton Heights station, an arbitrator selected by the parties has ruled that Kevin Murphy’s death (my husband’s death) was not by suicide, but rather that Metro North was a party legally responsible for his death on March 4th, 2013,” Jamey Murphy said in a statement to CT Insider. “The MTA police withheld evidence from our family and lied to us during the investigation of the incident. Had it not been for the Freedom of Information Act, Kevin’s name would not have been cleared of the false allegations.”

The details of the settlement are being withheld by a confidentiality agreement.

The Murphy family’s lawyer, Joel Faxon, declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Metro-North also declined to comment.

On March 4, 2013, the 44-year-old Murphy had just returned from a week’s vacation in the Caribbean with his wife and five children, according to court documents.

That Monday morning, Murphy got up early and drove to the Noroton Heights station.

It was cold and dark out, according to the weather report, when he stood out on the platform at 6 a.m. Ten minutes later Murphy was struck by a train and killed.

The family sued both Metro-North and the town of Darien. The town was later dropped from the lawsuit after reaching a settlement with the family. Details of that settlement were kept confidential.

While there were no cameras on the platform or witnesses that day, the MTA police report obtained by CT Insider through the state Freedom of Information law supports the family’s claim that Kevin Murphy had slipped on some ice on the platform and fallen on the tracks.

MTA police stated in the report that they found a 9-foot, 2-inch coating of ice on the platform over the point of impact and there was a possible scuff mark on the ice.

Peter Navarra, the engineer of the train that struck Murphy, told investigators the train had been traveling at about 70 mph bound for a stop at the Stamford train station, according to the police report.

As the train approached the Noroton Heights station, Navarra told investigators, “I saw something in the track area lying along the rail closest to the platform. As I approached closer, I noticed it started to move and it was a human being. I then placed the train into emergency and blew the train horn and stopped the train west of the platform. I thought I had missed this person.”

Metro-North initially rejected a $5 million settlement offer.

The lawsuit was initially thrown out by a state Superior Court judge in 2017. “The selection of which track to use would clearly go to the heart of a railroad’s operation of its rails and involves consideration of such things as routing and scheduling, operational decisions that a state cannot interfere with,” Superior Court Judge Michael Kamp ruled.

But Faxon appealed the ruling and the state Supreme Court overruled the lower court in 2019, stating that the federal regulation cited by the Superior Court judge did not address the claim being made in the lawsuit.

“Nothing in that regulation covers the subject of the plaintiff’s claim — namely, whether it is negligent to operate a through train on a track immediately adjacent to the platform when another track is available. Accordingly, we disagree that the plaintiff’s claim is essentially an excessive speed claim that is preempted by the railroad act,” the Supreme Court stated.