Oregon Rancher, Railroad Settle Dead Cattle Lawsuit

October 17, 2013 04:05 AM

A Klamath Falls, Ore., rancher and the Union Pacific have settled a legal battle over 24 cattle of an ancient breed that were hit by a train and killed.

The terms were not disclosed, and the railroad admitted no wrongdoing, The Oregonian reported

When the suit was filed, rancher Bruce Topham valued the cattle at several hundred thousand dollars.

They are Salers cattle. Images of the breed have been discovered on cave walls in France dating back 7,000 years.

In August 2011, the cattle escaped from a field Topham was leasing about 24 miles north of Klamath Falls. They climbed onto the tracks, and a northbound Amtrak Coast Starlight hit them.

The train was on rails the Union Pacific owns.

A Klamath County sheriff's investigator said at the time it was extraordinary to see so many cattle die in one accident.

The lawsuit said it was the railroad's responsibility to take care of fences along the track in open range country — property owners who don't want cattle on their land must fence them out.

Topham, 71, told the Oregonian he believes the railroad didn't expect him to pursue the case, but he got a settlement offer in September when depositions were taken and a court date set.

Topham said the 23 cows and the bull that died were more than half of a herd he considered the best of his Salers. Rebuilding will take time, he said.

"It's not like you snap your fingers," he said. "This set me back 15 years."

Railroad spokesman Aaron Hunt issued a statement saying the company "acknowledged settlement of the case." Hunt added the railroad is an important part of the state's economy and remains "committed to the safe and efficient operation of our network."

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