A class action lawsuit was filed Friday relating to the Paulsboro, New Jersey train derailment and chemical spill that forced hundreds of people from their homes and left dozens sick last year.
Some of the plaintiffs include more than 100 first responders, young children and property owners who allege they sustained injuries and damages after the hazardous chemical spill.
On November 30th, seven cars of an 84-car train derailed after a railroad bridge collapsed over Mantua Creek. The accident released 100,000 pounds of vinyl chloride monomer, a human carcinogen, leading to the evacuation of more than 329 families and businesses. Dozens of people were checked out at a hospital. Conrail owned and operated the bridge, according to the filing.
CSX Corp., the biggest railroad in the eastern U.S., and Conrail Inc. were initially sued by more than 50 New Jersey residents, who were exposed to the toxic chemicals following the train derailment last year.
According to the complaint, acute exposure to vinyl chloride affects the central nervous system, causing dizziness, drowsiness, as well as lung and kidney irritation.
It was stated that this derailment could have been prevented because allegedly, there was prior knowledge of the risks of trains transporting dangerous chemicals and tankers across this bridge.
The companies failed to take proper action regarding complaints about the bridge, including at least 23 “trouble tickets” reporting malfunctions last year, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs blame Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX and Philadelphia-based Conrail of negligence for failing to properly maintain the bridge and allowing a train carrying hazardous chemicals to cross, even though a red signal indicated it wasn’t properly aligned.
In the case of Spears et al v. Conrail et al, filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia this morning, all of the individual plaintiffs claim that they inhaled significant quantities of vinyl chloride. The chemical is linked to short-term breathing problems, but prolonged exposure has been tied to cancer. They are asking for compensatory damages, damages for physical injuries and losses, mental anguish, property loss, and medical monitoring now and in the future.
Cassandra Clarke, mother of two, said her daughter, 12, and son, 7, got sick as a result of the spill. “As a parent, it’s your worst nightmare. I am really concerned that my children are going to be alright, that they are going to have longevity and be lively,” said Clarke.
First responders claim that Conrail representatives advised them throughout the day that they did not need breathing masks or other personal protective equipment, despite high readings of vinyl chloride in the air. The suit states they later underwent extensive medical testing that showed high levels of vinyl chloride in their urine.
Other plaintiffs in the new civil action claim they were walking their young children to school, driving to work or inside their home when they were engulfed with fumes.
Last month, Conrail offered to settle with hundreds of Paulsboro residents. They offered some families $500 per child and those who live closest to the site were offered more. But lawyers for the families say the amount would not cover future medical bills if their children get sick.
If it is true that these companies were aware of the fact that the bridge was not safe for traffic involving highly toxic chemicals and did nothing to prevent it, they need to be held accountable. The safety and health of so many innocent people, including children, was completely disregarded and these companies must pay for the harm they caused or may cause in the future.
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