A Pennsylvania federal judge has approved a $265 million settlement for all pending claims arising out of the 2015 derailment of Amtrak train number 188 in Philadelphia, which caused eight deaths and more than 200 injuries. U.S. District Judge Legrome Davis signed off on the settlement that was negotiated by the Plaintiffs Management Committee, made up of seven lawyers, and Amtrak, saying it was appropriate because of a $295 million cap on damages under federal law and the prospect of years of protracted litigation.
Lawyers on the management committee said that the $265 million amount was equivalent to the present value of $295 million paid out in two and a half years, the likely minimum amount of time it would take to resolve more than 125 remaining cases via litigation. Lawsuits against Amtrak, also known as National Railroad Passenger Corp., started to be filed shortly after the derailment. The involved train “tumbled” off the tracks as it approached Frankford Junction in Philadelphia on its way to New York in May 2015. All seven passenger cars derailed along with the train’s locomotive, injuring nearly all of the train’s passengers.
In October of last year, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered Judge Davis in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to handle the lawsuits brought by victims of the crash. The settlement agreement obligated all Plaintiffs to commit or opt out of the settlement program by Nov. 21. Individuals who have yet to file lawsuits related to the derailment have until Jan. 31, 2017, which is also the last day Amtrak can agree to any settlements with participating or nonparticipating Plaintiffs.
Amtrak must then turn over a lump sum payment to a trust account by Feb. 28, 2017. This is estimated at $265 million, less funds that have already been paid out for medical and rehab expenses and settlements – along with estimates for damages owed to unfiled passengers and those who opt out of the settlement program. Two court-appointed masters will then review the submissions from participating Plaintiffs to determine the value of their damages, and will provide the court a report by May 26, 2017. Victims and families will then receive notice of their final award by June 30, 2017, and could receive payments shortly afterward.
The management committee is composed of Tom Kline of Kline & Specter PC; Judith Livingston, of Kramer Dillof Livingston & Moore; Robert Mongeluzzi of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky PC; Frederic Eisenberg of Eisenberg Rothweiler Winkler Eisenberg & Jeck PC; Ben Morelli of the Morelli Law Firm; Denis Mitchell of Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner LLP; and Timothy Loranger of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman. The case is In Re: Amtrak Train Derailment before the U.S. Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.
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