A Pierce County judge has found Amtrak alone to be responsible for a 2017 derailment in Washington state that killed three people and injured at least 65.
According to The News Tribune, the court issued its verdict on a lawsuit brought by an Amtrak engineer who was injured in the crash.
Fred Bremseth, an attorney for the engineer, had previously told the Tribune that he wanted to prove that a federal investigation had already blamed Amtrak for the derailment.
“The judge will instruct the jury that the court has already ruled that Amtrak is 100 percent to blame, which we call strict liability here,” said Bremseth.
The Seattle Times reports how the Amtrak Cascades 501 derailed on December 18, 2017, fell off the track and fell onto Interstate 5 near DuPont, Washington. The derailment injured dozens of passengers as well as several people who had driven on the motorway below.
An Amtrak train approaches a station in Ann Arbor, MI. Image via Chad Kainz / Flickr. (CCA-BY-2.0)
In his lawsuit, Amtrak engineer Steven Brown alleged that the train company had not given him sufficient training to slow the train in mountain bends or initiate an emergency stop. In addition, Brown noted that the “technology that could have stopped the train and prevented the derailment” was not installed in the Cascades 501 at the time of the accident.
Brown, according to the lawsuit, “suffered physical and mental injuries as a result of the derailment”.
Among other things, he demands unspecified compensation for medical expenses and lost wages.
Despite the previous court ruling that Amtrak was guilty of, the company had still tried to blame Brown.
“At least there is a real dispute over whether Brown’s loss of situational awareness and failure to slow the train on the day of the incident was the only immediate cause of the derailment and not Amtrak’s alleged training and service implementation failure months before the train got the station leave, “Amtrak wrote in a lawsuit.
However, Supreme Court Justice Karena Kirkendoll ruled in favor of Brown’s legal team, noting that previous investigations and judgments held solely Amtrak responsible for the derailment.
Such results were echoed in Brown’s own arguments, in which his attorneys found that Amtrak engineers were not adequately trained to navigate the Cascades route on a new high-speed stretch of line.
Critical Amtrak personnel were also absent from assisting the Cascades and Cascades, leaving the staff aboard the 501 understaffed and poorly equipped to cope with the new route and above-expected authorized speeds.
“This is a big deal for Mr. Brown,” said Bremseth. “It’s like the second, if you will, confirmation from him that it was Amtrak’s fault, and not his. […] It doesn’t take away the tragedy, of course, but it does help clear up its name, so to speak. “
Court: Amtrak, not an engineer, is liable for the 2017 fatal derailment near DuPont
Engineer suing Amtrak during controls during fatal train derailment near DuPont
Judge: Amtrak, not an engineer, is liable for the fatal derailment of Washington State