View Mobile Site
 

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos

 

Crash settled: Judge says $200M settlement from 2008 Metrolink crash equivalent of ‘judicial triage'

Posted: July 15, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: July 15, 2011 1:30 a.m.
In this Sept. 12, 2008, photo, firefighters work to rescue trapped passengers at the site of a train crash where a MetroLink commuter train collided with a freight train in Chatsworth. In this Sept. 12, 2008, photo, firefighters work to rescue trapped passengers at the site of a train crash where a MetroLink commuter train collided with a freight train in Chatsworth.
In this Sept. 12, 2008, photo, firefighters work to rescue trapped passengers at the site of a train crash where a MetroLink commuter train collided with a freight train in Chatsworth.
A A A

A judge Thursday divided $200 million among the many victims of the 2008 Metrolink train collision in Chatsworth, calling his task “judicial triage” and saying the victims were short-changed by at least $64 million.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter D. Lichtman said he was forced to award victims of the train disaster a maximum of $200 million because of a 1997 federal law limiting liability.

In handing down his decision, he wrote: “This court knew for a certainty that there was simply not going to be enough money to award the relief requested by counsel.”

Lichtman explained in his final judgment that the total value of the collision, according to the requests from counsel, was between $320 million and $350 million.

Worst commuter crash
On Sept. 12, 2008, two trains collided head-on in Chatsworth — a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train.

Twenty-four people were killed, and more than 100 were injured.

“Simply put, the sheer weight of the freight train crushed the lighter and more flexible passenger train,” Lichtman wrote.

“The fate of every passenger riding on Metrolink No. 111 that day — be it death, serious injury or the ability to walk away — hinged on a passenger’s choice of seat and that seat’s direction of travel.”

Federal safety officials said the passenger train’s engineer didn’t stop at a red signal.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the engineer had been texting seconds before he drove through the signal.

Attorneys said injured passengers and families of those killed will receive between $12,000 and $9 million — far less, in some cases, than the projected costs of their future medical care. The money was awarded based on degree of injury.

The judge ruled that $4.2 million would go to the surviving family of each adult killed, and $1.2 million will be paid for each child who died.

Attorneys for the victims had requested between $320 million and $350 million, and if each case were tried separately, the potential verdict would be close to or even greater than that amount, Lichtman wrote.

Liability limits
Veolia Environment, a company based in France, and Metrolink, which provides commuter rail service in Southern California, agreed to pay the $200 million award. Veolia’s subsidiary employed the engineer cited by federal officials as responsible for the crash.

The total amount “is the largest financial recovery in the history of passenger rail and exceeds the amounts paid to victims of 9/11 and to victims of prior accidents at Metrolink before Veolia assumed train operations,” Veolia said in a statement Thursday.

The federal law limiting liability for railroad operators is called the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997. It places a $200 million cap on the aggregate of all passengers’ damage claims in a railroad accident lawsuit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments

Most Popular Articles

There are no articles at this time.
Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.

 
 

Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...