CSX Train Derailment Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Exposure to Toxic Chemicals For Residents in Rockcastle County, Kentucky

A class action lawsuit has been filed against CSX after a Kentucky train derailment just before Thanksgiving exposed area residents to harmful chemicals and gases.

Following a CSX train derailment in Kentucky that caused a chemical spill and the release of poisonous gas, a CSX class action lawsuit (PDF) has been filed against the railway company claiming residents in Rockcastle County were exposed to dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals that can cause short and long term health issues.

On the Eve of Thanksgiving, a CSX operated train traveling between Mullins Station and Livingston derailed in Rockcastle County, Kentucky, overturning at least 16 train cars including two carrying molten sulfur, which spilled from the cars and caught on fire, releasing toxic chemicals into the air and surrounding community.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear quickly declared a state of emergency on November 22, warning that the train derailment and resulting chemical fire had released sulfur dioxide gas into the air, potentially exposing more than 200 local residents to the poisonous gas.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many first responders and local authorities were dispatched to surrounding area to evacuate nearby residents, as a precaution to prevent toxic gas poisonings.

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Sulfur dioxide (SO₂) is a colorless gas with a sharp, irritating odor that is released by the burning of molten sulfur, a chemicals primary used in the manufacturing of sulfuric acid. Sulfur dioxide is particularly harmful to the respiratory system and can cause severe irritation to the nose, throat, and airways, causing coughing, mucus secretion, aggravation of asthma, chronic bronchitis, and can make breathing more difficult.

Kentucky CSX Train Derailment Class Action Lawsuit

Following the derailment,  CSX issued a press release indicating that a failed wheel bearing on one of the cars caused the crash.

According to the recently filed class action lawsuit against CSX, which was brought by local residents Lauren Webb and Debbie Francisco in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky on November 29, the train derailment could have been avoided if proper precautions were taken.

The complaint indicates that CSX should have placed the trackside detectors closer together, to more closely monitor the temperature of the wheel bearings. This could have allowed area residents to avoid being displaced from their homes and exposed to the toxic gases.

CSX’s failure to take proper precautions in monitoring the wheel bearings, especially on cars carrying dangerous and combustible chemicals, was reckless and has caused plaintiffs and others in the community to suffer injuries from the resulting sulfur spill and chemical fire, according to the lawsuit.

As the chemical fire was burning and toxic sulfur dioxide released into the air, local residents began reporting that they were experiencing respiratory symptoms, including the onset of asthma attacks and throat and eye irritation.

The lawsuit seeks class action status to pursue damages for the plaintiffs and other area residents located in the evacuation zone, including compensation for injuries that resulted from the chemical fire exposure, including severe irritation to their throats, eyes, lungs, mouths and lips, and had their properties invaded by dangerous plumes of chemical smoke.

As a result of CSX’s alleged negligent actions, the lawsuit seeks for CSX to pay for medical monitoring of those impacted to screen for the onset and treatment of illnesses or disease caused by the exposure.

Among the medical monitoring claims raised in the lawsuit against CSX, plaintiff’s also raised allegations of negligence, willful and wanton conduct, private nuisance and trespass seeking damages in the amount to be determined reasonable by the court.

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