Gillespie School District awarded nearly $10 million in lawsuit

GILLESPIE - A Macoupin County school district has been awarded nearly $10 million in a lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad after it claimed an elementary school was damaged when a coal mine collapsed.

On Wednesday, the Gillespie School District was awarded the judgment by Macoupin County Judge Patrick Londrigan.  The district originally sought $22 million when the lawsuit was filed in 2010, claiming Benld Elementary School was damaged beyond repair when the roof of a coal mine under the school property collapsed.

The school district sued Union Pacific Railroad because its predecessors were subsidiaries of a company that mined the land where the elementary school was built.  The collapse occurred in 2009, resulting in cracked walls, busted pipes, floor buckling, and structural separation.

The damaged school was then demolished, and a new school costing about $7 million in district bond money was built.  According to Gillespie School Superintendent Joe Tieman, any money the district will receive from the judgement will be used to pay back debt accumulated to build the new school.

On Thursday, Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Mark Davis said that the company is planning to appeal the judgment.
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