A federal class-action lawsuit over a fiery train derailment in Bullitt County, Kentucky in January 2007 has been settled for $3 million. There are about 17,000 people eligible for claims, but no person in the lawsuit can receive more than $10,000. The lawsuit, filed shortly after the crash, claimed that CSX Transportation was responsible for the derailment and that the railroad failed to warn residents of possible danger quickly enough after the derailment. A combustion plume spread throughout neighboring communities, resulting in chaos, fear and evacuation. During the incident, about 500 residents were evacuated, some people were taken to hospitals, and thick, black smoke spread for miles. The train was carrying chemicals considered hazardous. Some residents went to the hospital complaining of breathing problems. General Electric was added as a defendant in the case after CSX claimed that a defect in a derailed GE-owned railcar caused the accident.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell has given preliminary approval to the settlement. The National Transportation Safety Board has not released its final report on the accident’s cause. Interestingly, the settlement includes an order prohibiting any press releases unless all parties agreed to the language. Those persons who may have claims in the lawsuit – people who lived, worked or had property within 3½ miles of the derailment site – are being notified. The closer people lived to the site, the more money is available to them, according to the terms of the settlement.
CSX already has paid about $1.7 million in hotel bills for evacuees, cleanup of homes and cash payments to victims immediately after the crash. Those who have received some money from CSX will have those payments deducted from their settlement amounts. People who lived within 1,500 feet of the crash are not eligible to participate in the class action. Some of those persons have filed individual lawsuits. People in the class have until the 28th of this month to file claims and they had until October 18th to opt out of the settlement.
Those who opted out can file their own lawsuits or object to the settlement agreement in writing to the court. The lawsuit included residents who were forced to evacuate their homes as well as people who were ordered to stay in their homes. The named Plaintiffs in the lawsuit will get an additional sum for representing the class. Judge Russell will hold a hearing on December 15th to hear any objections to the settlement and decide if it is fair and adequate and should be approved. A number of individual lawsuits against CSX are still pending.
Source: Courier Journal
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