Family of man killed by LRT sues driver, Met Council and Metro Transit

Nicholas Westlake was a nationally ranked ballroom dancer.

Edgar Linares
December 17, 2018 - 7:26 pm

Courtesy of Attorney Chad McKenney

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The family of Twin Cities ballroom dancer killed by a light rail train filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Ramsey County. The lawsuit filed Friday is against the driver, the Met Council and Metro Transit in the death of Nicholas Westlake, 29.

On July 15, 2017, a Green Line train struck the diver’s side of Westlake’s car at the intersection of Eustis St. and University Avenue in St Paul then caught fire.

“The Metro Transit Police Department did an extensive report and found that the significant contributing factor to this accident was their driver in essence ran a red light,” said Westlake Family attorney, Chad McKenney.

McKenney of Donohue McKenney, a Maple Grove-based law firm, said to add “insult to injury” St. Paul’s attorney could not file reckless driving charges against the driver, Abdellatif El Maarouf, because the definition of a vehicle does not include a “train” in Minnesota’s traffic code, therefore Maarouf wasn’t charged.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $50,000. More importantly, McKenney said the family doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else and they’re looking to make a change at a legislative level.

“What the family would like to do is make sure that if somebody is driving a train in a manner that if they were driving a car they could be charged with careless or reckless driving,” said McKenney.

Courtesy of Attorney Chad McKenney

Nicholas Westlake was a nationally ranked ballroom dancer. He coached ballroom dancing at the University of Minnesota and served as a mentor. His girlfriend and dance partner Neli Petkova, was in the car with Nicholas when the accident occurred, she was also injured.

“We have had communications with Metropolitan Transit and we’ve been unsuccessful to get a resolution of any of our disputes and as a result we filed this lawsuit,” said McKenney.

Metro Transit declined to comment on the lawsuit.