Seven lawsuits were filed against Amtrak and the BNSF Railway Company Monday on behalf of seven passengers who were injured in Montana Sept. 26 train derailment.
The lawsuits were filed by Clifford Law Offices in Chicago Federal District Court. They intend to challenge the requirement of arbitration allegedly applicable to passengers.
In 2017, the law firm secured a $ 16.75 million verdict against Amtrak for a derailment in Seattle, Washington, before the arbitration clause was added to the back of the tickets.
The allegations in the complaints allege negligence on the part of the defendants for a number of actions or inactions, including improper, inadequate and insufficient maintenance of rails, switches and railway equipment.
The cause of the derailment is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The lawsuits were filed on behalf of a couple from Massachusetts, a couple from Pennsylvania, a couple from Indiana and a man from Montana, all of whom were physically injured in the incident and are in pain. severe emotional and psychological trauma, according to a statement.
Ryan, 34, and Hanna Shea, 31, of Leverett, Massachusetts, were traveling to see their family in Seattle. They managed to get out of the wagon which was tilted to the side, but never reached their destination.
Brandi, 42, and Shawnee Gimse, 29, of York, Pa., Were in a wagon that tipped onto its side.
Morgan, 31, and Christopher Grosso, 39, of Lafayette, Indiana, were in the front row of the observation car when it leaned to the side and skidded about 200 feet before stopping . They were able to climb through the broken panes of the broken windows.
Theodore Hastreiter of Whitefish, MT suffered severe physical, psychological and emotional trauma when he saw other passengers die in the observation car where he was seated.
“All of these people deserve their day in court,” said Sean Driscoll, partner at Clifford Law Offices and lead counsel for the team that secured a $ 57 million settlement against Amtrak in the 2017 Seattle derailment. We have assembled a team of experts including former NTSB investigators who are conducting an in-depth examination of all aspects of this tragic derailment. We will have answers. They will get justice.
“This tragedy could and should have been avoided,” said Kristofer Riddle, a lawyer with the legal team who secured the $ 57 million settlement against Amtrak earlier this year. “These people have experienced the unthinkable. They trusted Amtrak to get them to their destination safely and Amtrak broke that trust. “
Clifford Law Offices said they have been contacted by other passengers on the train and intend to take further legal action on their behalf.
The NTSB took the lead in determining how eight of the 10 cars got off the tracks. A preliminary report from some 14 investigators at the scene is expected next month.
The Federal Railroad Administration also has a team of experts to help with the investigation. They reportedly used video footage of the train and black box data, as well as analysis of damage to the rail cars and injuries to survivors and those killed.
Ryan and Hanna Shea described their experience in the following statement:
We were so excited to be taking a trip across the country to visit Hanna’s family outside of Seattle. We are very nervous travelers, so we decided to split the trip, taking a short flight from Boston to Chicago, then taking the Amtrak Empire Builder for the rest of the way. This was our first train trip and we were planning to travel mainly by train for our next trips if all went well. That all changed on Saturday afternoon when what appeared to be a strong impact and a series of jolts threw us against the walls of our roomette. The train car trembled and toppled from side to side. We were in our separate bunks, terrified for ourselves and each other, unable to see each other’s condition until the train stopped moving. Once the train stopped, we rushed over to kiss each other, exit the alcove, and check on the other passengers. Passengers were frantically picking up their belongings throughout our car, so we did the same. Initially Amtrak staff announced that we had to stay in the car, but because it was tilted and we were in shock, we wanted nothing more than to get off the train and go to a location. where we felt more secure.
Once outside the wagon we saw how horrible the damage was. Cars rolled over, people rushed over, trying to help each other, others were screaming and crying. It was all chaos, but we made it to the side of the tracks to safety, regrouping with other passengers and awaiting the arrival of paramedics. After awhile, we were taken by bus to a school gymnasium in Chester, MT where the townspeople really showed up to help, offering food and water and listening during that we process the experience verbally over and over again. We decided to go straight back to Massachusetts.
Our hearts hurt for the families and friends of the three people killed in the derailment, as well as for the passengers and crew who were seriously injured. The faces of the people we saw while we were on the train and in the wreckage are still present. We keep asking ourselves: where are they now? Are they safe? Do they feel safe?
We send our sincere condolences to these families because we know that their lives, like ours, will never be the same again. We also know that it cannot happen again. This is not the first time that an Amtrak train has derailed or crashed, causing physical and psychological damage to its passengers. We have since learned that the main action Amtrak took after the last fatal derailment was to add a mandatory arbitration clause to its purchase contract. When you put your security in the hands of big companies like this, you don’t want to know that they are preemptively trying to block your avenues of redress should the worst happen.
But it’s the truth. And that is why we have engaged Clifford Law Offices in Chicago to fight to hold Amtrak and any other responsible party accountable, and more than that, to know that we are following every avenue possible to protect from this completely preventable horror of other passengers who might be visiting family or doing what is sold as a sleepy ride through the beautiful landscapes of the United States. do the right thing. The status quo is obviously not secure enough. Amtrak needs to focus on making train travel safer, not on saving money in disasters.