A commuter rail system and its former operating contractor want to use federal law to limit their liability in a deadly train crash caused by a texting employee.
Metrolink in California and Connex Railroad are offering a $200 million settlement to victims and families in connection with the Sept. 12, 2008, crash between a commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train. The crash killed 25 and injured more than 100. There are 76 lawsuits filed against the railroad companies.
Paul Kiesel, the coordinating attorney for all the lawsuits in the case says the $200 million offer isn’t enough.
Kiesel says some victims already have medical bills that total six or seven figures.
Example: Construction worker Curtis Whitney suffered spinal injuries in the crash. He had no insurance and has undergone multiple surgeries. His medical bills already total $600,000.
The $200 million offered is the liability cap allowed under federal law in passenger rail incidents.
The cap was set in law by Congress.
U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA), in whose district many of the victims live, said he probably will introduce legislation that could adjust the liability cap.
Kiesel points to what BP has done regarding the Gulf oil disaster and claims the payouts can and should exceed the liability caps. BP could have stayed within a $75 million cap, but it put up $20 billion to pay for damages caused by the gusher.
The train crash was caused by a contract Metrolink engineer, employed by Connex, who ran a red light while text-messaging, according to an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. Metrolink now employs Amtrak as its operating contractor.
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