Sunday, June 28, 2015 - A group of passengers and those adversely affected by the fatal Philadelphia Amtrak train derailment in May have announced that they will be pursing a motion to certify their lawsuits against the train company into multidistrict litigation. The plaintiffs are requesting that the cases be centralized before U.S. District Judge Lagrome Davis, who is already presiding over 13 federal complaints related to the crash. Federal Amtrak lawsuits have already been filed in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs have named the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania as the preferred location for the claims to be centralized. They claim that the actions filed thus far all have common questions of fact, and that the transfer of all the lawsuits to a single court will assist in the efficiently and effectiveness of the litigation surrounding the derailment. The motion to transfer was filed on June 22 before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. There were 19 pending lawsuits against Amtrak at the time of the filing which came from 42 plaintiffs, and the number os cases filed against Amtrak is expected to grow in the coming months.
The train derailment took place on May 12, when a Amtrak train in Philadelphia rounded a curve too quickly and crashed. The train, which was en route from Washington, D.C. To New York City, was going at more than twice the posted speed limit at the time of the crash. It went off the rails at more than 100 MPH, killing eight passengers and causing more than 200 others to be treated for injuries resulting from the crash. The speed limit in the area where the train derailed was only 50 MPH, and the blame has been spread between the train‘s engineer and Amtrak‘s company policies.
Plaintiffs are claiming that the crash was preventable s there were a number of measures not taken by Amtrak that contributed to the train‘s derailment. One of the steps listed that plaintiffs claim could have been taken was the use of a positive control system, which is used to slow down trains traveling too fast. The section of track over which the derailment took place did not have a positive control system, which was recently mandated by congress to be installed on all railroads by the end of the year. The plaintiffs have also pointed out that only one engineer was present on the train at the time of the crash, and that a second engineer may have made a difference in slowing down the train before it‘s derailment. The engineer who was operating the train at the time reportedly suffered a concussion from the crash and has no memory of the derailment.
There may be issues ahead for plaintiffs however, as pursuant to the federal Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act, the maximum amount Amtrak can pay out for a single train accident is set at $200 million. The plaintiffs hope to bring all the lawsuits before a single judge in light of this fact to help coordinate the funds evenly and effectively if the final award ruled upon happens to exceed the $200 million cap.