Centralization of Amtrak Train Accident Lawsuits Sought in Federal Courts

As a growing number of lawsuits continue to be filed over the deadly Amtrak train derailment near Philadelphia last month, a motion has been filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation seeking to centralize the cases before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

There are already at least 19 Amtrak train accident lawsuits filed against the National Railroad Passenger Corp. by 42 plaintiffs. The cases are currently spread across four different U.S. District Courts, and the number of claims is expected to continue to increase as more of the 238 passengers file lawsuits.

A group of plaintiffs filed a motion for transfer (PDF) on June 22, indicating that all cases should be centralized as part of an Amtrak MDL (multidistrict litigation) to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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The plaintiffs call for the lawsuits to be consolidated in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania under U.S. District Judge Legrome Davis, who is already overseeing 13 of the complaints.

The lawsuits stem from the derailment of Amtrak Regional Train 188 on May 12, after it went around a dangerous curve in the tracks at more than 100 miles per hour. The train was carrying 238 passengers and five crew members from Washington, D.C. to New York, resulting in eight deaths and varying degrees of injuries for almost all others onboard the train.

All of the lawsuits involve allegations that Amtrak’s negligence in operating the train led to serious and potentially permanent injuries.

While the accident is still under investigation, a team from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined that the train headed toward the turn at 107 m.p.h. when the engineer, identified as Brandon Bostian, hit the emergency brakes. The train took the turn at 102 m.p.h.; more than double the 50 m.p.h. speed limit, according to data recorders on the train, analyzed by the NTSB team.

In addition, that section of the tracks did not have a positive control system used across the region to automatically slow trains down when travelling at excessive speed. Congress has mandated that all railroads in the U.S. have such a system in place by the end of this year.

Some critics say the accident could have been avoided if a second engineer had been present on the train, which would have reduced the risk that the operator would have maintained the excessive speed heading into the dangerous part of the train tracks.

Personal injury lawyers for the Amtrak train derailment continue to review cases for those impacted by the accident, so additional lawsuits are likely to be filed in the coming weeks and months.

Image Credit: Image via Richard Thornton / Shutterstock.com


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