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The widow of a Merrillville man killed when a train collided with his car 14 years ago won a final round in court this week when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the $5 million-plus verdict she won against the railroad.

Tamara Kapitan, 39, of Hebron, won a judgment in a civil suit against Grand Trunk Railroad after her husband, Rudy, died in a collision with a train at the Hendricks Street crossing in Merrillville on Nov. 6, 1988. Grand Trunk's attorneys took the verdict to the Indiana Court of Appeals before heading on to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This was a victory for public safety as well as for the Kapitans," her attorney, Kenneth J. Allen, said in a statement released Friday. "This was an extremely dangerous railroad crossing with several other accidents and fatalities. The railroad had tried to avoid responsibility by blaming the town of Merrillville and the state of Indiana for lack of protection at the crossing."

Allen also noted in his statement that flashing lights and gates were added to the Hendricks crossing following Kapitan's fatal accident.

Allen said his client is pleased with the decision "although there is never any joy in these things. It's been a long, grueling process. We look at (the decision) as a victory for safety and as a way to give the family some closure. And (the case) has set a precedent, so that at least some preventive measures are taken" to keep rail crossings safer.

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