Norfolk Southern to Pay $600 Million in Class Action Lawsuit for East Palestine Derailment in Ohio

April 10, 2024
3 mins read
Norfolk Southern's $600 million settlement for the Ohio derailment impacts thousands.(Source: Wikipedia)
Norfolk Southern's $600 million settlement for the Ohio derailment impacts thousands.(Source: Wikipedia)

Railroad company Norfolk Southern has offered to pay $600 million after the derailment of one of its trains in Ohio in February 2023, if the amount is approved by a court, it will settle all lawsuits covering thousands of residents within a 20-mile radius of the 2023 derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

The derailment of about 50 of the 150 cars, on the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania, resulted in the spill of millions of liters of toxic chemical compounds that contaminated the environment.

The railroad company stated that the settlement aims to compensate for the costs related to the spill that sent a column of toxic smoke into the air and displaced many residents and businesses. However, Norfolk Southern did not admit any liability or wrongdoing as a result of the settlement.

“The actual allocations and payments to households, businesses, and individuals will be determined by court-appointed class counsel,” the company said in a statement. 

“Individuals and businesses will be able to use compensation from the settlement in any manner they see fit to address potential adverse impacts from the derailment. This could include healthcare needs and medical monitoring, property restoration and diminution, and compensation for any net business loss,” it continued.

The class action settlement, which encompasses 31 separate cases, also allows residents within a 10-mile radius of the derailment to receive additional compensation.

In a court filing on Tuesday, the plaintiffs said they expected to file a motion for the judge to approve the settlement within 10 days. Lawyers representing the claimants said they expect the claims process to be easy and efficient and to begin sending out payments by the end of 2024.

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“This resolution comes shortly after the one-year anniversary of the disaster and will provide substantial compensation to all affected residents, property owners, employees and businesses residing, owning or otherwise having a legal interest in property, working, owning or operating a business for damages resulting from the derailment and release of chemicals,” said Seth Katz of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, M. Elizabeth Graham of Grant & Eisenhofer, Jayne Conroy of Simmons Hanly Conroy, and T. Michael Morgan of Morgan & Morgan, in a joint statement.

Following the Norfolk Southern freight train derailment on February 3, 2023, residents were ordered to temporarily evacuate. State and federal environmental officials say that testing shows the air and water in the town are now safe, but some residents still complain of health problems.

However, several class-action lawsuits claim the company has not done enough to remedy the toxic chemicals released in the area. They also blamed Norfolk Southern for negligence.

 The community was promised a fund for the community’s long-term health needs by the railroad, but this has not yet happened. 

The settlement will be submitted for preliminary approval to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio later sometime in April 2024. Payments to group members under the settlement could begin by the end of the year, subject to final court approval.

Norfolk Southern has already spent more than $1.1 billion on its response to the derailment, including more than $104 million in direct aid to East Palestine and its residents. Partly because Norfolk Southern is paying for the cleanup, President Joe Biden has never declared a disaster in East Palestine, which is a sore point for many residents. 

As per the federal officials, the aftermath of the train derailment does not qualify as a public health emergency. They couldn’t find any documented widespread health problems or continuous exposures. Even the Environmental Protection Agency never approved that designation after the Norfolk Southern derailment in February 2023, despite the disaster forcing the evacuation of half of the town of East Palestine and generating many fears about the long-term health consequences of the spilled and burned chemicals. Concerns about pollution were exacerbated by the decision to open five tanker cars full of vinyl chloride and burn this toxic chemical three days after the derailment.

Among the questionable decisions made by the company was a massive and controlled burn that released toxic chemicals into the air three days after the derailment.

The railroad company said there was an imminent risk of an uncontrolled explosion if the chemicals were not released and burned. The ground officials who authorised the controlled burn were told they had only minutes to make the decision before an explosion.

But the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board testified last month at a Senate hearing that the controlled burn was unnecessary.

Govind Tekale

Embarking on a new journey post-retirement, Govind, once a dedicated teacher, has transformed his enduring passion for current affairs and general knowledge into a conduit for expression through writing. His historical love affair with reading, which borders on addiction, has evolved into a medium to articulate his thoughts and disseminate vital information. Govind pens down his insights on a myriad of crucial topics, including the environment, wildlife, energy, sustainability, and health, weaving through every aspect that is quintessential for both our existence and that of our planet. His writings not only mirror his profound understanding and curiosity but also serve as a valuable resource, offering a deep dive into issues that are critical to our collective future and well-being.

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