Multiple Lawsuits Are Filed in Tennessee Over CSX Chemical Fire
Every day the railroads transport hazardous chemicals and explosive substances near homes and businesses. These potentially-lethal cargoes are contained in tanker cars that are prone to rupture while the railroads have a poor record of keeping people who live near the tracks and first responders informed.
We are now seeing the extent of this apparent failure in a raft of lawsuits that have been filed in Blount County in Tennessee where a CSX train derailed last year.
Just over a year ago in Maryville near Knoxville, a train carrying a flammable liquid derailed. It caught fire and forced thousands of people to leave their homes.
The train was carrying acrylonitrile, a toxic chemical which produces poisonous hydrogen cyanide when it is ignited.
The ongoing health concerns have prompted a raft of lawsuits in Blount County as CSX Transportation and Union Tank Car Co. are sued for $104 million.
As an experienced railroad crash injury lawyer, I know how devastating a derailment of a train containing chemicals can be. I worked with the victims of the Norfolk Southern crash in Graniteville, SC after a derailment in 2005 caused a chlorine gas spill and claimed the lives of nine people.
The lawsuits brought against CSX in Blount County include a wrongful death suit which blames the railroad for the death of a firefighter.
According to media reports, the widow of Blount County Fire Capt. James “Jim” Patty Jr., has filed a lawsuit against CSX, Union Tank Car Co., and the two men who were operating the train. More than 50 people who filed a lawsuit also named the two men.
The lawsuit has been filed by residents from Maryville, Greenback and Louisville. It seeks $80 million in personal, property and punitive damages.
Did CSX Fail to Warn First Firefighters of Dangerous Chemicals in Blount County Derailment?
The $20 million lawsuit that has been filed by Patty’s widow alleges CSX failed to warn firefighters who attended the derailment of the dangerous nature of the chemical that was leaking from the train.
The claims says CSX failed to timely notify responders that the burning tank car contained acrylonitrile and they were not informed until two hours after they attended the fire.
By then it was too late for Patty. The complaint says the firefighter had been exposed to toxic smoke and vapors from the ruptured tanker car for several hours.
Patty was asked to identify the numbers from the burning car. He sustained severe injuries to his lungs, throat and other internal organs. He remained hospitalized for months and died in October, the suit states.
The lawsuit makes for shocking reading and my thoughts are with the family of this deceased firefighter. First responders do a heroic job. The risks increase tenfold if they are not given the full facts before attending an incident.
This is not the first time the level of information given by CSX to first responders has been questioned. The fire official who led the response to the 2014 oil train derailment and fire in Lynchburg, Virginia, told investigators it took two hours for the company’s representative to arrive at a command post after the crash.
By all accounts, Lynchburg dodged a bullet. There was nobody nearby when the train derailed and the burning cars fell into the river where the fire was extinguished.
The railroad companies have been accused of excessive secrecy over the routes taken by trains carrying dangerous chemicals and flammable crude oil – substances that are transported in DOT-111 tanker cars and labelled “soda cans” by critics because they are so easily punctured and crumpled in a derailment.
Many of these chemicals have a recommended evacuation distance of 5-10 miles. Yet they are transported through the hearts of cities and other smaller communities like Maryville.
Our railroad accident lawyers help people who have been harmed by the actions or inactions of the railroads whether people living in communities by the tracks, passengers, railroad workers, first responders or drivers and passengers hurt or killed on inadequate grade crossings. Call us today for a free consultation at (757) 333-3333.