Two residents of the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, where a runaway train derailed and exploded into a wall of fire that killed 50 people, have filed a class action lawsuit attempting to secure compensation for the small community. The Plaintiffs, Guy Ouellet and Yannick Gagné, are seeking damages after the Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway train of 72 oil tanker cars crashed on July 6 into the center of the lakeside town near the Maine border, destroying buildings and businesses, and leaving a community in mourning. Ouellet lost his partner, Diane Bizier, in the explosion, while Gagné’s popular bar, the Musi-Cafe, was destroyed by the blast and subsequent fire. The bar was filled with people at the time of the accident, and most are presumed dead. At press time, 37 bodies had been recovered from the blackened remains of the town’s historic downtown, with another 13 people still missing and presumed dead. This is one of the worst railway disasters in Canada’s history.
The railway’s chairman, Edward Burkhardt, apologized to the town of about 6,000 and acknowledged corporate liability. The company has said the engineer, who parked the train in a nearby town uphill from Lac-Megantic, most likely failed to set sufficient hand brakes. The investigation, which could take months to complete, is also likely to also spur tougher regulations for companies operating in the railway industry. The debate over the safety of moving crude oil by rail will definitely intensify as a result of this disaster.
The class-action suit, filed in the district of Saint-Francois, in southeastern Quebec, seeks compensation for those who have lost loved ones or were injured in the explosions. It also includes claims for property or business losses. Burkhardt and railway President Robert Grindrod are named as Defendants, along with numerous other company executives and the train’s engineer.
Daniel Larochelle, a Lac-Megantic based lawyer, heads the legal team handling the class action lawsuit. That team includes the Consumer Law Group of Montreal, Rochon Genova LLP of Toronto and Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein LLP of New York and San Francisco.
Source: Insurance Journal
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