A good number of lawsuits have been filed in Arkansas over a 2005 Union Pacific derailment, explosion and chemical leak in Texarkana. A train from Chicago struck another train, from Pine Bluff, in the Union Pacific yard on the south side of Texarkana. Some of the cars derailed in an accordion effect, piercing a propylene tanker that leaked part of its flammable cargo. A small propane tank also exploded. One resident, Pearlie Mae Marshall, died when the explosion destroyed her home. A wrongful death suit, filed over her death, was settled for $2 million.

Other residents complained of respiratory problems and hundreds of homes and a jail were evacuated. A second wrongful death suit was filed by the family of Norma Sims. It is alleged that Ms. Sims died ten days after the collision because of the fumes she inhaled. A third lawsuit naming about 18 first responders as Plaintiffs was among eight more suits filed recently.

The National Transportation Safety Board found the probable cause of the collision to be “the failure of the crew of the train to remain attentive and alert and thereby able to stop short of an observable standing train.” A toxic chemical plume quickly formed after the incident and hovered above the Texarkana vicinity for hours. Thousands of residents were awakened, startled, and promptly forced to evacuate their homes and businesses.

A suit on behalf of 1,200 Plaintiffs who either lived within a one-mile radius of the blast or were exposed to the noxious vapors, also was filed. That suit names Union Pacific, as well as the train’s conductor and engineer, as Defendants. The explosions resulted in the total destruction and incineration of multiple homes and personal property in the surrounding areas and properties. The propylene and other dangerous and toxic substances subsequently ignited, causing multiple violent and deadly explosions.

Still another suit, which has 1,400 Plaintiffs, says victims are suffering continued physical and emotional effects from the accident. In addition to a tanker car filled with propylene that leaked and then ignited, a trestle bridge said to be treated with creosote, houses, cars and transformers also burned and released various substances into the air. Federal officials estimated the damage caused by the derailment at $2.4 million. Union Pacific has already settled numerous suits by evacuees and says that it wants to settle more.

One suit seeks class status for 160 people who fall into “the personal injury class, the evacuation class, the property damage class and/or the economic loss/business loss class.” From all accounts it will take a pretty good while to get all of the claims resolved.

Source: Insurance Journal

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