PREVENT ALMOST 200 COMPLETELY INNOCENT CHATSWORTH TRAIN WRECK VICTIMS FROM BEING VICTIMIZED A SECOND TIME BY THE FEDERAL LIABILITY DAMAGE LIMIT LAW (49 United States Code Section 28103)
At 4:22 PM on Friday, September 12, 2008, almost 200 completely innocent Southern California Metrolink #111 Railroad passengers were on their way home for the weekend. See the track diagram. Their locomotive engineer, Robert Sanchez, was employed by Connex Railroad, LLC, a division of Paris, France based Veolia Environnement, which had contracted to provide locomotive engineers, conductors and management to operate the Metrolink railroad throughout 5 Southern California counties.
Connex/Veolia claims to have safety as its number one priority. That website claim is not practiced. Unknown to the Metrolink # 111 passengers, but for weeks well known to upper Veolia/ Connex management, their locomotive engineer, Robert Sanchez, previously busted in 2006 for written cell phone usage rule violation, had again been sending between 25 and 180 text messages per day while on duty, including many while operating (driving) the train. Unknown to them, for several miles that Friday afternoon, Mr. Sanchez failed to call out signals or control the speed of the train as required by written rules. Also unknown to them Mr. Sanchez ran, over speed, past the CP Topanga red signal a mile after leaving the Chatsworth station, as he was sending a text messages to male teenage rail fan friends. Twenty two seconds later, and without any warning, their train hit a freight train traveling over 40 MPH head on, derailing all the locomotives. Their speed went from 43 MPH to 0 and being forced backwards –all within 7 /10 of a second. In this instant, 25 were killed and 150 injured, often catastrophically. The lives of all their families were changed forever.
Now, two years after the rail disaster--- California’s worst, and one of the USA’s most violent — and, short months from the trial which will bring the corporate culprits to justice, begins, the Federal Liability damage limit law is about to victimize them again. On August 25, 2010, the defendants filed a federal interpleader action in the Los Angeles Federal Court, asking the Federal Judge to discharge them from all liability as soon as they deposit the $200 million cap. This 1997 damage limit legislation was introduced to protect Amtrak – but as signed into law looks appears to apply to all culpable parties --- and it will prevent them from recovering about 2/3 of their true legal damages. Also out of their about 1/3 recovery, they will have to repay all the insurance companies who paid their medical costs-- unless you do something to help, now please.
For the Chatsworth Victims to have benefited by the Cap law change, Congress MUST have acted before the Federal Judge rules and his decision became final, that the interpleader lawsuit is proper and that Connex/ Veolia has to pay no more funds for all the harm done these completely innocent passengers. That time has passed; so the Chatsworth Victims will get additional funds only if Veolia volunteers to provide them, like BP did after the Gulf Oil spill. And if Veolia acts like it Website claims it does: to be "Accountable-- especially in safety matters." But future passenger victims will be helped and railroad safety improved if the pending bills are passed by the US Congress.
August, 2010: Veolia and Metrolink run for cover by interpleading the $ 200 Federal Amtrak Bill Cap into Federal Court and asking that the Court discharge them of any additional legal liability. This is accomplished in the early spring, 2011. after which the $ 200 Million Allocation Process was begun. The Honorable Peter Lichtman, Judge of the Los Angeles Superior court conducted short trials on each of the Victims/ Survivors cases between early March, and mid June, 2011.
July 13, 2011: After hearing the evidence and testimony presented by the attorneys representing each of the Chatsworth Survivors/ Victims, Judge Lichtman filed his Final Judgment Re Allocation of Interpled Funds. Note that Judge Lichtman found that the cases total damages was between $ 320 and $ 350 million. That he knew that there would probably not enough funds to fully and fairly compensate everyone, so he also keept a running total of the minimum fair compensation for all. This figure totaled $ 264 Million--- so he had to cut it (conduct what he calls "judicial triage") to pare the awards down to the $ 200 Million available. An example of how much he had to be cut is the Moyfia case, which is the largest single award, $ 9 Million. The evidence at her trial was that her medical/ rehabilitation bills alone total over $ 13 million'; she also not only can not ever become a medical doctor (she was admitted to medical school at the time of the crash), but must have around the clock care because of the brain damage she suffered. So there are no funds available for her lost of income. Again, if Veolia does not voluntarily pay significantly more funds on a volunteer basis and because it actually does what its Website touted business ethics claims--- it is "Accountable, especially in matters of safety" the US and State Taxpayers will have to pick up the cost.