Passengers file lawsuit against Amtrak over deadly U.S. derailment

Reuters News
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Posted: May 18, 2015 12:34 PM

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) - Four passengers on the Amtrak commuter train that derailed in Philadelphia last week filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against the U.S. rail service, citing "serious and disabling" injuries, as operations resumed on the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor.

The lawsuit, filed in Philadelphia, appeared to be the first brought by non-employee passengers since the derailment on May 12 that killed eight people and injured more than 200 others.

The plaintiffs included two Spanish citizens, Felicidad Redondo Iban and Maria Jesus Redondo Iban, as well as Daniel Armyn of New York and Amy Miller of New Jersey. Nicole Armyn, Daniel's wife, and Marino Ucero Estrades, Maria's husband, who were not aboard the train, were also named as plaintiffs.

The four passengers suffered major injuries, with Felicidad Redondo Iban requiring several surgeries to avoid amputation of her right arm, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit sought unspecified damages and accused both Amtrak and the engineer of the train, Brandon Bostian, of negligence and recklessness.

Federal law caps the payout from Amtrak to all victims of a single crash at $200 million. Personal injury legal experts have said the figure may be too low to cover the costs of the people killed and injured in the derailment.

Last week, Amtrak employee Bruce Phillips, who was riding the train as a passenger, filed the first lawsuit over the crash. His claims are not covered by the cap, which excludes employees.

An Amtrak representative could not be reached immediately for comment.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) into the cause of the crash was ongoing. The train, headed from Washington to New York with 243 people on board, was traveling at twice the 50-mile-per-hour speed limit when it entered a sharp curve and derailed just north of Philadelphia.

Amtrak commuter service resumed early on Monday on the Northeast Corridor, the nation's busiest passenger rail line.

More than 750,000 passenger trips are taken daily on the stretch from Washington through Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York to Boston.

Passengers leaving Washington generally said they felt safe as service was restored.

"They're doing everything they can to probably fix it," said Ann Marie DeLury, a graduate student from New York. "If I'm afraid every time I travel, I'll get stuck in a place and never move."

In Washington, the White House said President Obama would meet with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and other local officials on Monday to thank them for their response to the derailment.

NTSB investigators were looking into the possibility a projectile struck the train after they found a circular pattern of damage on the locomotive's windshield after the accident.

The NTSB said it has not ruled out mechanical problems, human error or a deliberate act by the engineer, Brandon Bostian, 32.

The engineer, who suffered a concussion, has told investigators he has no memory of what occurred after the train pulled out of the North Philadelphia station, just before the crash.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Additional reporting by Tom Ramstack in Washington; Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)