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7 passengers sue Amtrak over derailed train in Montana

By Joseph Choi

Seven passengers who were on the ill-fated Amtrak train that derailed in Montana last month filed a lawsuit against the national railway system on Monday, alleging negligence and seeking damages for the injuries they sustained. A Massachusetts couple, a Pennsylvania couple, an Indiana couple and a Montana man all filed lawsuits against Amtrak through Illinois-based firm Clifford Law Offices, according to The Associated Press.

On Sept. 25, seven cars on the Amtrak's Empire Builder train derailed near Joplin, Mont., killing three people and injuring dozens of other passengers. In a press release, Clifford Law Offices noted that it has previously secured verdicts of $16.75 million against Amtrak in 2017 for a derailment in Seattle. The law firm is seeking to challenge the arbitration requirement that is applied to passengers that was put in place after its lawsuit against Amtrak.

"Allegations in the complaints allege negligence on the part of the defendants for a number of actions or inactions including improper, inadequate and insufficient rail maintenance, switches and train equipment," the law firm said.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently investigating the derailment, the cause of which has yet to be disclosed.

One of the couples suing Amtrak, Ryan Shea and Hanna Shea, said they had decided to split their cross-country trip to visit family into one shorter plane ride and a another trip on Amtrak due to their shared nervousness about flying. "This was our first train trip, and we were planning on primarily travelling by train for future trips if everything went well. All of that changed on Saturday afternoon when what felt like a strong impact and a series of jolts threw us against the walls of our roomette," the couple said.

"We’ve learned since the incident that the central action Amtrak has taken after the last fatal derailment has been to add a mandatory arbitration clause to its purchase agreement," they added. "When you put your safety in the hands of major corporations like this, you don’t want to know that they are preemptively trying to block your paths to recourse should the worst happen."

These are not the first lawsuits to be filed a lawsuit against Amtrak in connection to the Montana derailment. In September, the Rebecca Schneider, the wife of one of the victims of the incident, filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that her husband Zach Schneider died from a “preventable tragedy.”

This article originally appeared on The Hill.

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