Amtrak admitted it is liable for damages caused by the May 12 derailment of Train 188 in Philadelphia and will not dispute its role in the disaster that killed eight people and injured more than 200, according to lawyers representing some of the plaintiffs seeking compensation.
In documents filed Friday in a Philadelphia federal court, Amtrak conceded that its train was “traveling in excess of the allowable speed” when it toppled off the tracks in Philly on its way from Washington D.C. to New York City – an admission that plaintiffs’ lawyers called “an important step” in the litigation process, PhillyVoice reported.
“From the beginning, Amtrak has taken responsibility for this tragic accident, covering initial medical costs, transportation and lodging for passenger and their families,” Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds told Claims Journal. “Consistent with this, and per our filing, we are not contesting liability for compensatory damages.”
Amtrak’s admission means it will pay for wrongful death claims, medical expenses, damages for pain and suffering, and lost wages, and that admission will likely remove a time-consuming hitch from the litigation. The company currently faces 26 lawsuits brought by 36 passengers and two employees, but the number of lawsuit is expected to climb.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers say they may also seek punitive damages. Claims Journal reports that “to prove punitive damages, lawyers must show by clear and convincing evidence that Amtrak acted with ‘conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of others.’” That claim could take years to litigate and it wouldn’t start until after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) finishes a final report on its investigation of the crash, expected sometime next year.
NTSB investigators continue to piece together what caused the train to travel 126 mph, more than twice the speed limit, around a sharp bend. Conductor Brandon Bostian’s actions are central to the probe, but so far investigators haven’t figured out why Mr. Bostian, who is known as a conscientious and extremely safety-minded conductor, allowed the train to travel so fast. Mr. Bostian was knocked out in the crash.
Lawyers for both plaintiffs and defendants in the case have asked the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate all of the complaints before federal judge Legrome Davis in Philadelphia.