JPML To Hear Oral Arguments Over Amtrak Crash Lawsuit Consolidation on Oct. 1

A panel of federal judges hear oral arguments on October 1, over whether to consolidate all Amtrak derailment lawsuits stemming from a deadly train crash that occurred near Philadelphia in May. 

According to a hearing order (PDF) issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), oral arguments will be considered during a hearing set for early next month at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse in New York, New York.

The hearing comes in response to a motion filed to centralize all Amtrak crash lawsuits before one federal judge to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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There are currently at least 22 different lawsuits filed against Amtrak in at least four different federal district courts, with dozens of additional personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits expected from the 238 passengers injured in the train derailment.

The crash occurred on May 12, when Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed as it went around a dangerous curve in the tracks at more than 100 miles per hour. The train was traveling from Washington, D.C. to New York, resulting in eight deaths and varying degrees of injuries for almost all others onboard the train.

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.

The U.S. JPML is likely to establish coordinated pretrial proceedings for the Amtrak crash litigation, as both plaintiffs and Amtrak have filed responses agreeing that the cases should be centralized in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where most of the cases are currently pending.


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