A South Carolina textile company that closed as a result of a train wreck and toxic chemical spill in 2005 wants the railroad to pay $420 million in damages. The Norfolk Southern wreck ruptured a car carrying chlorine and released a poisonous cloud over the mill town of Graniteville, South Carolina, killing nine people and injuring 250. Some 5,400 people were evacuated. Equipment at Avondale Mills’ Graniteville facilities was covered with corrosive chemicals after the crash, and the company’s flagship canvas plant was locked down for safety reasons for eight days. Avondale chief executive Steven Felker Jr. closed the company for good in May 2006 after experts determined it would have cost more than the business was worth to clean the buildings and replace the machinery. The railroad has accepted blame for the crash but is contesting damages.
Norfolk Southern’s insurance company is also part of the lawsuit. The company, Factory Mutual, says that Norfolk Southern should repay the company the $215 million to cover what it paid out to Avondale Mills. The civil trial is projected to last for three months. The crash occurred when a Norfolk Southern train veered off the main track onto a spur, rear-ending a parked train whose crew had failed to switch the tracks back to the main rail. Norfolk Southern should be held accountable because the railroad knew that members of the crew operating the Graniteville tracks the night before the crash had been working long hours in violation of company rules. Avondale Mills says a Norfolk Southern supervisor “could have avoided this tragedy” by mandating that employees adhere to federal regulations requiring that they work no longer than 12-hour shifts.
Source: Insurance Journal
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