Chariton County judge allows employee cases to be combined in deadly train derailment lawsuits
KEYETESVILLE, Mo. (KMIZ)
A Chariton County judge said Wednesday that he will allow lawyers from all parties to work together on which Amtrak employee lawsuits can be combined into one in a trial related to a deadly 2022 train crash and derailment.
Lawyers representing Amtrak, BNSF, M.S. Contracting and the employees and passengers on the train that derailed in June 2022 met in Keyetesville on Wednesday for a motion hearing
The derailment happened on June 27 at a crossing on County Road 113 known as Porche Praire Avenue, according to the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report on the crash and derailment. NTSB investigators said Amtrak's "Southwest Chief" train collided with a fully loaded dump truck at the crossing.
The train was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago with 270 passengers and 12 crew at the time of the derailment. Three passengers and the driver of the dump truck were killed in the crash. Dozens of other people on the train were hurt in the collision.
Both locomotives and eight passenger cars derailed and the dump truck was destroyed in the crash. Seven of the passenger railcars tipped over onto their sides. The derailment caused around $4 million in damage, according to the NTSB.
More than a dozen lawsuits were filed following the derailment. Wednesday, the judge only focused on the cases from employees and decided not to talk about the passenger cases for now.
Amtrak and BNSF, the defendants in the lawsuits, asked to combine all the lawsuits filed by Amtrak employees. They argued combining the cases would limit overlap in the legal process.
The judge decided the courts will not separate the liability and damages hearings, but he will allow for the lawyers to combine some of the lawsuits.
Now, lawyers must agree on which employee lawsuits to combine based on their similarities and report back to the judge in 30 days. The court will then move forward with the jury trials for each lawsuit.
Last week, a federal judge paused the lawsuit between BNSF, Amtrak and MS Contracting, the company that operated the dump truck involved in the crash, until the NTSB investigation is completed. It's not clear when that will happen.
M.S. Contracting wants to wait on those results because it's concerned the preliminary findings paint the company in a bad light. The company has said in the federal case that the NTSB has handed over video of the crash from the Amtrak train.