Amtrak Lawsuits Claim Overcrowding Contributed to Deadly Injuries in Train Crash

Survivors of the fatal Amtrak train crash say overcrowding, an unsecured railroad crossing, and other avoidable factors contributed to the severity of injuries during the accident.

Following a fatal train crash last week in Missouri, multiple passengers have filed lawsuits against Amtrak and other entities, claiming that negligent railway designs and passenger overcrowding caused the tragic collision.

One complaint (PDF) was filed by Janet Williams and her husband, David, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on July 1, naming Amtrak, BNSF Railway Company and MS Contracting, LLC as defendants.

The Amtrak lawsuit comes just days after Amtrak Southwest Chief Train 4 derailed after striking a dump truck at an uncontrolled crossing in Mendon, Missouri, at approximately 12:43 pm on June 27. Four individuals were killed in the train crash, and over 150 passengers or crew members suffered injuries.

The eight passenger car train departed from Los Angeles, California on June 26, and was carrying approximately 275 passengers and 12 crew members at the time of the accident. Prior to the crash, Williams states that Amtrak instructed passengers scheduled to get off of the train in Kansas City to remain onboard, while telling passengers aboard to clear the observation cart for new passengers and their luggage.

Williams’ complaint alleges Amtrak created a “cattle-car overcrowding of the train” and knew or should have known that overcrowding the train would greatly increase the risk of harm, and magnified injuries or death in the event of an accident or derailment.

“Amtrak’s intentional decision to overcrowd the train with passengers and luggage beyond its safe capacity was motivated purely by the desire to sell more tickets and reap greater profits at the expense of passenger safety,” according to the lawsuit, which alleges Amtrak “intentionally overcrowded the train and knowingly subjected its passengers, including Plaintiff, to harm.”

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With the Amtrack train overcrowded, it approached Porche Prairie Crossing in Mendon, Missouri, which is a known passive grade crossing, meaning there are no lights, crossing arms or alerts to warn motorists or pedestrians of a train approaching. The complaint further indicates the crossing is a steep approach and has unkept vegetation surrounding the crossing, limiting lines of sight.

As the Amtrak train approached the crossing at 89 mph, Williams’s states the conductor failed to apply adequate braking, and only slowed the train down by 2 mph by the time the nearly 300 passenger and crew member train struck the MS Contracting dump truck at 87 mph.

Upon impact, Williams’s claims she was forcefully ejected from her seat as the Amtrak train dragged the dump truck under the leading locomotive, causing all eight trailing passengers cars to derail and flip on to their side into a deep embankment alongside the railway.

Williams’s states she was transported by first responders to a local high school where she was triaged and given a neck brace before being taken to a local hospital for “life-altering” injuries.

The lawsuit includes claims of negligence against Amtrak, the dump drunk company (MS Contracting, LLC) and BNSF Railway seeking damages for injuries sustained as well as punitive damages for the negligent acts and omissions of the named parties. In addition, David Williams brings claims of loss of consortium.

The Amtrak lawsuit filed by Williams’ is one of several already filed, and more are likely to be filed in the coming weeks as surviving passengers attempt to recover from their injuries and are released from hospital care.

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