The ruling, filed Jan. 31, stems from a Feb. 5, 2017 incident in Puyallup, Wash., in which a BNSF freight, traveling during heavy snow, struck a 54-year-old man who was standing on the tracks, according to the court’s opinion.
“According to witnesses at the scene, the train blew its whistle, but R.S. [the victim] was struck and killed. Witnesses disagree about whether R.S. intentionally stayed on the tracks,” the report read.
The locomotive was equipped with a video camera and recorded the event.
Pierce County Medical Examiner Thomas Clark issued a subpoena for the video, but BNSF challenged whether he had properly launched a coroner’s inquest and whether he had the power to issue a subpoena. According to the ruling, BNSF was concerned that the video might be leaked.
“Instead, BNSF offered to show the video to Dr. Clark at any time, as many times as he would like to view it, and brought the video to the ME’s office. No one at the ME’s office viewed the video.”
The court agreed with BNSF that because no inquest had been formally called, the subpoena was not valid.
“Although the coroner may subpoena the video in this case, he or she may demand only that the witness bring the evidence to the inquest jury,” the court said. “The coroner is not entitled to summon the witness or the evidence to his or her office.”