Clifford Law Offices has been retained by 40 passengers in the September 25 derailment of an Amtrak train in Montana. Passengers come from across the country – from upstate New York to Seattle, Washington, from Texas to Indiana – all drawn together to take a scenic rail trip across the northern part of the country. Separate lawsuits against the railroad and BNSF Railway Company that owns and maintains the tracks have been filed in federal district court in the Northern District of Illinois.
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 initially obtained a $16.75 million verdict against Amtrak for the 2017 derailment near Tacoma, Washington. Amtrak then added an arbitration clause to back of tickets, unbeknownst to paying passengers. The law firm intends to challenge the constitutionality of the clause.
“Trains don’t derail by themselves,” said Kristofer S. Riddle, partner at Clifford Law Offices who is handling the matter. “Negligence obviously is involved and we intend to get to the bottom of what happened here to help our clients heal and achieve some form of closure through the litigation process.”
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 law firm has hired its own team of independent experts, including former NTSB investigators, who are examining the tragic derailment.
The Amtrak train consisting of a locomotive and 10 passenger cars ejected some of the 146 people on board that included 16 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 Riddle, who also was on the Clifford Law Offices’ legal team that obtained a $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. 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.
To speak to 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).