Gravel & Shea PC

July 2016

Gravel & Shea To Offer Paid Parental Leave


Gravel & Shea will now offer four weeks of paid parental leave to any eligible employee upon the birth or adoption of a baby. Employees become eligible after working at the firm for one year.

In compliance with Vermont’s parental and family leave law, Gravel & Shea provides up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to new parents, to be used at any time within the first twelve months after the birth or adoption of a baby. The firm also offered, and continues to offer, self-funded short-term disability coverage that employees can use to cover the loss of income during an extended leave period. Under the firm’s new paid parental leave policy, parents will be able to take four weeks of paid leave during the 12-week statutory leave period.

Paid parental leave is uncommon among Vermont companies, and Gravel & Shea saw an opportunity to be a leader in the community by recognizing the realities of caring for a new child and the importance of family.

“We wanted to support our employees in creating the lives outside the office that sustain them for the important work they do inside the office,” said Bob Rushford, Managing Partner of Gravel & Shea. “We really do think of Gravel & Shea as a big family. When we find great people, we want them here to stay.”

U.S. District Court Grants Summary Judgment for Amtrak in Wrongful Death Case

Amtrak and NECR 2

Gravel & Shea attorneys Bob Hemley and Navah Spero successfully obtained the dismissal of a wrongful death case against Amtrak and the New England Central Railway in U.S. District Court. On June 20, 2016, Judge William Sessions awarded summary judgment to all defendants on all claims in a 25-page decision.

In their complaint, Plaintiffs asserted that negligence on the part of Amtrak and New England Central Railway had resulted in the death of a 15-year old boy who was struck by an Amtrak passenger train while crossing private tracks near his home in Vernon, Vermont. Plaintiffs claimed that Amtrak failed to blow the train’s horn long or loud enough and failed to brake the train to avoid the collision. Their complaints against New England Central Railway related to sight lines and warnings at the track.

Hemley and Spero argued that the Plaintiff had failed to present evidence sufficient to allow any reasonable jury to conclude that the death was the defendants’ responsibility. The case involved complex issues of railroad practice, analysis of train movement and an investigation into the boy’s behavior. In finding for the Defendants, the Court analyzed expert testimony from both parties and relied heavily on factual evidence, including a video recording of the incident made by the camera on the front of the train as well as measurements of the train speed and location that the train activated the emergency brake. The recording showed the train blowing its horn multiple times for 21 of the 30 seconds prior to the incident, and measurements indicated the train could not have slowed quickly enough to avoid a collision after the boy came into sight. In light of that and other evidence, the Court found that no reasonable juror could have determined the death was Amtrak’s or New England Central Railway’s responsibility.

The granting of summary judgment in a personal injury case is rare, but in this case, based on the arguments presented, the Court determined it was warranted.