A freight train derailment that spilled toxic materials into a water way and forced the evacuation of various businesses and residences in the Paulsboro, New Jersey, area has yielded its first personal injury lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court on behalf of 54 residents who claim that they suffered injuries resulting from the spill, which occurred last month.
Those injuries include respiratory and bronchial illnesses, headaches, skin and eye irritations and other unpleasant symptoms. The toxic chemical spilled was vinyl chloride. The lawsuit was filed against the train car operator, CSX, and the bridge owned and operated by Conrail.
In total, seven of the 84 train cars derailed.
The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the accident and its cause. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit point to a “significant history of failure” on the part of the bridge. For example, a similar collapse of the bridge occurred in 2009, according to the suit. The bridge was originally built in 1873.
This year, the defendants had received at least 23 reports of malfunctioning on the bridge.
Yet despite this negative track record, the defendants continued to use the bridge. When the vinyl chloride spill occurred, it created a chemical haze that obstructed vision and created a flammable, potentially explosive situation.
The lawsuit is seeking punitive and compensatory damages exceeding $50,000, in addition to other interest and costs.
The lawsuit could be the first of several to hit the defendants, especially since the spill affected residents and businesses in multiple states.
Source: The Pennsylvania Record, “First lawsuit filed over Paulsboro, N.J. train derailment and toxic chemical release incident,” Jon Campisi, Dec. 17, 2012