NY Metro-North Train Crash Lawsuits Begin to be Filed by Passengers

The first personal injury lawsuits have been filed in the New York State Supreme Court against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, claiming negligence resulted in a Metro-North train derailment over the weekend that left 70 passengers injured and four dead.  

Following the Metro-North train crash Sunday morning in the Bronx borough of New York City, lawsuits allege that the train’s control systems were known to be faulty and that the operator was negligent, causing loss of life, pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages and other damages among passengers.

Laureen Coyne, risk management director for the MTA released a comment this week indicating that it is too early to tell the extent of the claims at this time, but the MTA does expect to face a large number of lawsuits.

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Early investigations suggest that negligence was a major factor in the train crash, after New York City prosecutors indicated that the conductor admitted to “nodding off” and “falling into a daze at the controls” just before the accident. Prosecutors are debating whether to bring criminal charges against the conductor or whether his conduct should be dealt with in civil court. However, the accident is still currently under investigation.

The derailment occurred on the Metro-North train’s Hudson Line, after a 30 mph curve was taken at 82 mph, causing the train to jump the tracks and derail. Some allegations have surfaced that Metro-North failed to implement a positive train control system before the crash, which could have prevented the speeding train from derailing.

In 2008, Congress passed a measure requiring all rail lines to install positive train control systems (PTC) by 2015, to prevent human negligence such as taking a slow turn at such a high rate of speed. Lawsuits are claiming the North-Metro failed to begin installing the PTC systems until 2012 and have lobbied to Congress for more time to install them.

Metro-North responded to the allegations claiming the technology is still under review and has not yet been tested sufficiently to install in such high capacity railroad systems such as the Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road. It will likely be debated in the lawsuits whether Metro-North negligently dismissed efforts to install the PTC systems.

The Metro-North is a self-insured, self-administered entity that holds $350 million in liability insurance through multiple carriers and an additional $50 million it carries through First Mutual Transportation Assurance, plus another $10 million in self-insurance. In total the company carries $410 million dollars in liabilities for injured passengers. Coyne released a statement on behalf of Metro-North that the company handles claims initially by their in-house legal staff but plans to hire outside legal experts to handle the anticipated claims. Coyne also did not comment when asked whether the railroad company would provide defense counsel for the railroad conductor.


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