Parents of woman fatally struck by Metrolink train settle lawsuit against guard service

A settlement has been reached in a consolidated lawsuit brought against a security guard service by the parents of a 24-year-old Long Beach woman who was killed after falling onto tracks and hit by a passenger train at the Sylmar Metrolink station in 2018.

Attorneys told Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Michael I. Levanas on Monday that the case brought by plaintiffs Gregory Smith and Jennifer Lee Miller against Paramount-based RMI International Inc. was resolved. No terms were divulged. The case was in the middle of jury selection in trial of the suit.

Smith and Miller originally filed separate lawsuits, but the complaints were later merged into one complaint. The couple’s daughter, Felicia Elizabeth Smith, was struck by Palmdale-bound Metrolink Train 285 at the station in the 12200 block of Frank Modugno Drive at about 6 p.m. on 2018.

According to the suit, Felicia Smith was waiting for a northbound Metrolink train when she began to lose consciousness from having donated blood and plasma about three hours earlier and unknowingly entered the yellow zone at least twice as the train approached.

Her boyfriend, who was with her, was picking up her cell phone after she dropped it just as the woman passed out and fell forward onto the train tracks, according to Miller’s court papers. He jumped down to the tracks to try and rescue her, but leapt back onto the platform to avoid being hit by the oncoming train, which struck and killed Felicia Smith, Miller’s court papers stated.

RMI International was responsible for public safety at the Sylmar station and required to have security guards patrol the station to warn passengers to keep away from the yellow danger zone on the platform, and additionally was obligated to alert those operating Metrolink trains of any potential dangers, hazards and conditions at the station that might put passengers and other in harm’s way as trains approached and left the station, the suit stated.

The security guard on duty that day was working at the station for the first time and was on a break and sitting in his car eating a sandwich as the train arrived, then was alerted to the incident by screams coming from the platform, according to Miller’s attorneys’ court papers.

“That is precisely why RMI was hired and why its security officers were to keep passengers behind the yellow line,” Miller’s court papers stated.

Had the guard been where he was supposed to be, “Felicia Smith would still be alive,” according to Miller’s lawyers’ court papers.

RMI International lawyers maintained that security guards are not trained to evaluate medical conditions, but instead to make sure people stay a safe distance away from an oncoming train. Therefore, it would not have made any difference if a guard was in the woman’s immediate vicinity, according to defense attorneys, who also maintained that both Felicia Smith and her boyfriend were negligent.

In denying an RMI motion to dismiss the case during a September 2021 hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Audra Mori said in a written ruling that there was a triable issue as to whether RMI was negligent.

“Had the security guard been present on the platform when the train was arriving, as the guard was required to be, he may have recognized (Felicia Smith) was experiencing a medical issue … only minutes before a train was scheduled to arrive,” Mori wrote. “The security guard could have ensured (Felicia Smith) was far away from the edge of the platform if he had been at

his required post at the time.”

Mori, who further wrote that she viewed video footage of the incident provided by RMI International, concluded that it would “not be speculative to conclude the presence of the security guard would have prevented the incident or ensured (Felicia Smith) was a safe distance away from the edge of the platform.”

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