Clifford Law Offices Filing Four More Lawsuits Against Amtrak and BNSF Rail Company in Derailment;
PRESS CONFERENCE NOON (CST) THURSDAY, OCTOBER 7th, 2021:
Passenger to Speak Out About His Severe Injuries Requiring Hospitalization
Clifford Law Offices is filing separate lawsuits on behalf of four more injured passengers in the September 25th derailment in Montana against Amtrak and the BNSF Railway Company that owns and maintains the tracks.
The Empire Builder line headed from Chicago to Seattle derailed on the afternoon of Sept. 25 near Joplin, Montana, leaving three people dead and dozens injured. Clifford Law Offices has filed a total of 11 lawsuits in federal district court in Chicago on behalf of its clients and intends to challenge the arbitration requirement that is allegedly applicable to passengers. The law firm initially obtained a $16.75 million verdict against Amtrak for the 2017 derailment in Seattle, Washington, before the arbitration clause was added to back of tickets.
Allegations in the complaints allege negligence on the part of the defendants for a number of actions or inactions including improper, inadequate and insufficient rail maintenance, switches and train equipment. The cause of the derailment is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The lawsuits are being filed this morning on behalf of Saint Matthew (Matt) Johnson, 40, of Seattle, Washington; Stuart and Karen Dixon, aged 60 and 57, a couple from Berwyn, Pennsylvania; and Justin Ruddell, 40, of Klamath Falls, Oregon, all physically injured in the derailment and all suffering from severe emotional and psychological trauma.
Ruddell was severely injured when he was in the bathroom right behind the observation car. When the derailment occurred, the force of the derailment caused the outside door to peel open, exposing him to the gravel, dirt and other elements that began uncontrollably pouring on him. He clung to life, then tried to dig himself out with a nearby railroad spike. “I thought I was going to die,” he said.
He was airlifted to a local hospital where he stayed for five days. He suffers from two broken vertebrae, five broken ribs and severely strained arms. He remains recuperating from the traumatic event and will speak to the press about the harrowing ordeal at a noon press conference October 7th, 2021.
“Trains don’t derail by themselves,” said Sean Driscoll, partner at Clifford Law Offices and lead counsel on the team that obtained a $57 million settlement against Amtrak on behalf of its clients in the 2017 Seattle derailment. “This is another derailment by Amtrak in four years and something must be done to hold the wrongful parties accountable. These people want and deserve answers. Their lawsuits will get them those answers.”
The Amtrak train consisting of a locomotive and 10 passenger cars ejected some of the 158 people on board that included 17 crew members in a remote area of Montana about 200 miles north of Helena, the state’s capital.
“A derailment like this would never happen in the absence of negligence,” said Kristofer Riddle, partner at Clifford Law Offices who also was on the legal team that obtained the $57 million settlement against Amtrak earlier this year. “Our clients are seeking answers and accountability for all the victims of this derailment and to ensure something like this never happens again.”
Clifford Law Offices has been contacted by still others on the train and intends to file further lawsuits soon on behalf of those passengers.
The NTSB has assumed the lead role in determining how eight of the 10 cars left the tracks. A preliminary report from some 14 investigators on the scene reportedly is expected in the next month. The Federal Railroad Administration also has a team of experts assisting in the investigation. They reportedly are using video footage from the train and black-box data as well as analyzing damage to rail cars and injuries to survivors and those killed.
JUSTIN RUDDELL ALONG WITH HIS LAWYERS SPOKE ON THURSDAY, OCT. 7, 2021. SEE NEWS CONFERENCE HERE.
To speak to Sean Driscoll, Kristofer Riddle or a member of the transportation liability legal team at Clifford Law Offices, contact Clifford Law Offices Communications Partner Pamela Sakowicz Menaker at 847-721-0909 (cell).
STATEMENT OF JUSTIN RUDDELL
MY NAME IS JUSTIN RUDDELL AND I WAS ON THE AMTRAK EMPIRE BUILDER TRAIN THAT DERAILED ON SEPTEMBER 25TH. I BOARDED THE TRAIN IN CHICAGO TO HEAD HOME TO KLAMATH FALLS, OREGON. IT WAS MY FIRST EXPERIENCE ON AN AMTRAK TRAIN AND I WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO A COMFORTABLE, RELAXING RIDE ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
THAT AFTERNOON I HEADED TO A BATHROOM WHEN SUDDENLY THE TRAIN JOLTED AND VEERED ON ITS SIDE. BEFORE I COULD DO ANYTHING, THE OUTSIDE DOOR PEELED AWAY, AND I FOUND MYSELF WITH GRAVEL, DIRT, ROCKS, EVEN FECES AND URINE POURING ALL OVER ME. I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE. IN THE SHOCK AND PANIC, SOMEHOW – THROUGH THE SHEER WILL TO SURVIVE – I WAS ABLE TO CLIMB OUT OF THERE. HAD I NOT HELD ON AS TIGHTLY AS I COULD, I WOULD HAVE BEEN CRUSHED BY THE TRAIN.
I WAS IN TOTAL SHOCK. SOMEHOW, VOLUNTEERS AROUND ME WERE ABLE TO GET ME INTO AN AMBULANCE, AND I WAS TAKEN TO A NEARBY HOSPITAL. THEN, I WAS TAKEN BY AIR AMBULANCE TO A HOSPITAL IN KALISPELL. I SUFFER FROM TWO BROKEN VERTEBRAE IN MY BACK AND FIVE BROKEN RIBS. MY ARMS ARE SO STRAINED FROM HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE, AND I HIT MY HEAD ON SOMETHING. I’M HAVING JAW PAIN AND DIFFICULTY JUST TRYING TO EAT. I SAW DEATH AND DESTRUCTION AROUND ME THAT I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO FORGET.
AT THE HOSPITAL, AMTRAK OFFERED NO HELP. THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE WAS LACKING IN CONCERN FOR MY CARE AND SAFETY. I EVEN HAD TO GET MYSELF HOME FROM MEDFORD, OREGON, AN HOUR AND A HALF AWAY. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WOULD DO WITHOUT GOOD SAMARITANS ALL AROUND US.
I SPEAK TO YOU TODAY TO MAKE THE PUBLIC AWARE THAT AMTRAK AND THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS TRAGEDY MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE MISTAKES THEY MAKE. THEY CANNOT OFFER WHAT THEY HOLD OUT TO BE SAFE TRANSPORTATION, THEN WALK AWAY WHEN PEOPLE ARE KILLED OR INJURED FOR THEIR ENTIRE LIVES. THAT’S WHY I HIRED CLIFFORD LAW OFFICES TO REPRESENT ME IN MY FIGHT TO DO THE RIGHT THING. AMTRAK HAS TO DO THE RIGHT THING.