GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. magistrate judge says Amtrak can be held liable for damages caused when a sleeper car attendant raped a North Carolina woman as the train traveled through northeastern Montana.

Charles Henry Pinner of Detroit was convicted of the April 2015 rape and is serving a 60-year prison sentence.

Amtrak argued it was not liable for Pinner's actions because they were outside the scope of his work.

Magistrate Judge John Johnston wrote Monday that as a "common carrier" paid for its services, Amtrak had the duty under state law to "use the utmost care and diligence" in providing safe travel and is responsible for employees hired to meet that duty.

Johnston's recommendations must be approved by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris. An Amtrak spokesman did not return an email seeking comment.

Court records indicate a settlement conference was held March 22.