Tamaroa, IL –
The Bryant Law Center along with the firm of Fayard and Honeycutt of Louisiana represented 500 Tamaroa, IL, residents and businesses impacted by the February 9, 2003, derailment of a northbound Canadian National freight train. A faulty rail joint caused 22 of the train’s 108 cars to leave the track. Four of the derailed cars released methanol, and the methanol from two of these four cars fueled a fire. Other derailed cars contained phosphoric acid, hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde, and vinyl chloride. Two cars containing hydrochloric acid, one car containing formaldehyde, and one car containing vinyl chloride released product but were not involved in the fire.
The entire town – about 850 residents – evacuated from the area within a 3-mile radius of the derailment, which included the entire village of Tamaroa. No one was injured during the derailment but residents were forced to stay away from their homes for up to a week and businesses were closed and some lost inventory. Chemicals had contaminated parts of the village and extensive testing and remediation followed. Residents and business owners filed suit against Canadian National in Illinois state court and the case was litigated for four years – including two times before the Illinois Supreme Court – before a confidential settlement was negotiated during mediation with the railroad and Erico Products Inc., which manufactured a chemical welding device used to maintain rails.
Rockford, IL –
The Bryant Law Center negotiated settlements for 75 victims who were forced to evacuate their homes for a day caused by a Canadian National freight train derailing in Rockford, Illinois June 19, 2009. The settlements were reached without litigation. The train – two locomotives and 114 cars – carried two million gallons of ethanol. Nineteen cars derailed when a section of rail was washed out by storm water. The ethanol caught fire and burned for nearly a day. The derailment and subsequent fire and explosion injured six people and claimed the life of an Illinois woman trapped at a railroad crossing. The National Transportation Safety Board later determined that storm water from unusually heavy rains had undermined the rail track bed and left a section of rail unsupported. The NTSB said a similar event had occurred at the location on two prior occasions, but no improvements were made. The NTSB also called for improved safety standards for tank cars and improved CN railroad communications about weather events that impact rail tracks or safety.
West Point, KY
The Bryant Law Center represented hundreds of residents of West Point, Ky., who were driven from their homes after a 12 cars of a Paducah and Louisville Railroad train derailed and caught fire on October 29, 2012. The entire community at the Hardin-Jefferson County line was evacuated. Another large explosion during the cleanup that prolonged the evacuation. Some residents were out of their homes for a week and the town was forced to postpone Halloween.
After two years of litigation, a US District Judge Charles Simpson in November of 2014 approved a $3.1 million dollar settlement for the class of victims victims who were designated as living within five miles of the derailment area. A special master identified all claimants using an address grid and checks were processed and delivered to clients just before Thanksgiving 2015 at West Point City Hall.
The settlement created three classes of participants based on if and when affected residents were ordered to evacuate or shelter in place. Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 participants are eligible to receive “ordinary benefits” of $1,353, $812 and $270, respectively for class compensation and $338, $203, and $67 for property damage. Affected residents who experienced damages or losses which would not be covered by the ordinary benefits are eligible to apply for “extraordinary benefits” of up to $7,500.
The plaintiffs sued for nuisance, trespass, negligence, failure of duty to warn and strict liability on behalf of all residents located within a five-mile radius of the chemical spill, people subject to an evacuation or ordered to stay indoors and all businesses or commercial entities affected by the derailment.
A federal investigation determined a broken rail caused the derailment. The Bryant Law Center worked with Jones Ward PLC of Louisville and Fayard and Honeycutt PLC of Denham Springs, La.
Mt. Carbon, W VA
The Bryant Law Center along with Fayard and Honeycutt of Louisiana, and West Virginia counsel P Rodney Jackson and Travis Griffith, are representing 470 people and businesses impacted by the derailment of a CSX Bakken crude oil train that derailed and burned February 16, 2015, along the Kanawha River near the communities of Mt. Carbon and Kimberly. The 107 car crude oil train was about 45 miles southwest of Charleston headed to Yorktown, Virginia when 26 cars derailed during a snowstorm and sub-freezing temperatures and 19 caught fire. For the next day, towering plumes of smoke and fire and explosions followed and forced the evacuation of approximately 1,000 people and orders for others to remain inside their homes. The intense fire disrupted electrical service and local utilities shut off water service because the accident drained into the rover. Without power, pipes in many homes froze and burst. Roads were closed and many people were unable to travel to work. The resulting fire also consumed a nearby house and vehicles and some plaintiffs alleged that their homes suffered cracks or structural damage from the explosions.
The Federal Railroad Administration determined that a problematic section of rail failed and cracked, causing the accident. The Bryant Law Center filed individual suits on behalf of the clients in Wayne County Circuit Court against CSX and Sperry Rail, which were removed to US. District Court. Sperry Rail in mid-2017 reached a tentative confidential settlement with the plaintiffs. The litigation against CSX remains active.
The Bryant Law Center, working with multiple law firms, is litigating a derailment and major evacuation in Maryville, Tennessee that occurred late on July 1, 2015.
Federal investigators say a bearing on a tank car axle failed on a southbound CSX freight train with two locomotives, and 57 cars as the train progressed through Maryville, about 20 miles due south of Knoxville. The bearing overheated and the axle broke and punctured a tank car carrying acrylonitrile driving it off the tracks.
The intense heat caused by the bearing failure caused the chemical to ignite and burn, releasing cyanide gas. About 5,000 people were evacuated including from subdivisions and trailer parks. Factories and businesses were forced to close. Others were ordered to shelter in place in their homes. The Federal Railroad Administration said 200 injuries were reported, some of them first responders who inhaled the toxic gas. People who inhaled or were exposed to the gas were decontaminated and treated at a local hospital.
The toxic smoke forced people from their homes for up to two miles from the accident. The evacuation order was lifted on July 3.
Litigation against CSX and Union Tank Car Company, which manufactured the tank car that was breached and caught fire, continues in US District Court in Knoxville, Tn. CSX is appealing a ruling certifying a class in the case.