Class Action Lawsuit Against Norfolk Southern

Class Action Lawsuit Against Norfolk Southern

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Class Action Lawsuit Against Norfolk Southern

In the evening of February 3rd, 2023, a Norfolk Southern train derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, a town located near the Pennsylvania border with a population of approximately 4,700 people. Fortunately, officials confirmed no physical injuries were reported from the incident. But for many residents of the small town, life was never going to be the same again.

Most of the cars, 150 in total, were carrying non-hazardous cargo, such as steel, cement, and frozen vegetables, as stated in the manifest of the derailed cars provided to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the government agency currently investigating the derailment, 20 cars were transporting hazardous materials. Investigators reported that 11 out of the 36 derailed cars contained hazardous material. 

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  • What Hazardous Materials Was the Norfolk Southern Train Carrying When It Derailed in Ohio?

    Among the derailed cars, five were transporting vinyl chloride, a synthetic substance crucial for producing Polyvinyl chloride, or commonly known as PVC, the hard plastic resin commonly utilized in construction and healthcare industries.

    At normal temperature, vinyl chloride is an odorless gas with a sweet fragrance. The gas is typically transported in the form of a compressed liquid.

    Inhaling vinyl chloride can lead to the following complications:

    • shortness of breath;
    • headaches and dizziness;
    • unconsciousness;
    • ulcers;
    • stomach bleeding; and
    • irregular heartbeat.

    According to the CDC, long-term exposure to elevated levels of vinyl chloride can result in liver damage and cancer.

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) subsequently released a report specifying other hazardous chemicals that were on the derailed train, including ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, isobutylene, ethylhexyl acrylate, all of which can cause symptoms such as dizziness and headaches, among others.

    As if that’s not scary enough, one of the tank cars had leaked its entire load of butyl acrylate, a clear liquid commonly used in the production of paint, adhesive, and caulk. Keep in mind that exposure to butyl acrylate can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, as well as nose, throat, and lung irritation.

  • What Are the Grounds for the Norfolk Southern Train Lawsuit in Ohio?

    Following the derailment, firefighters and other first responders worked to contain the blaze resulting from the incident. Trouble began when officials became increasingly concerned about the escalating temperatures within a single rail car, which they feared could result in a catastrophic explosion that would propel shrapnel as far as one mile away.

    Ultimately, authorities resolved to implement a "controlled release" of the highly unstable vinyl chloride. Since the combustion of vinyl chloride can produce hazardous chemicals such as hydrogen chloride and phosgene, there was an order for the evacuation of an area measuring one-by-two miles around East Palestine on both sides of the state line.

    On February 6, 2023, teams discharged the vinyl chloride from the derailed cars into a trench and set it alight in a "controlled explosion.” The explosion created a huge black smoke plume in the area. The fire was finally put out two days later.

    Following the aftermath of the explosion, it became apparent that Norfolk Southern was negligent in their handling of the incident. The so-called “controlled release” of the dangerous vinyl chloride put the residents of the East Palestine area at risk of developing serious health complications, among other problems.

  • How Was Norfolk Southern Negligent in Handling the Train Derailment Disaster?

    Based on their handling of the train derailment incident, it is no surprise that Norfolk Southern is now facing numerous class action lawsuits. Morgan & Morgan leads the fight for the rights of the locals, having filed a class action lawsuit against the Fortune 300 company.

    The lawsuit contends that Norfolk Southern's attempts to address and alleviate the disaster it allegedly created have actually aggravated the situation. Here is why:

    Following their failure to put out the fires arising from the derailment, the company purportedly punctured holes in the rail cars containing vinyl chloride, resulting in the discharge of 1.1 million pounds of vinyl chloride into the area, putting the lives and future of over 4,700 residents in danger.

    To put things into perspective, this amount, according to the EPA, is more than double the quantity of vinyl chloride that all industrial emitters discharge in the United States in any given year. Additionally, vinyl chloride is a confirmed carcinogen for which no safe level of exposure exists.

    As if that was not reckless enough, Norfolk Southern decided to opt for a less expensive and less safe containment approach rather than engaging in safer, more responsible, and more expensive methods of appropriately containing and cleaning up the spill.  They accomplished this by setting fire to the spilled chemicals, resulting in the creation of a chemical burn pit weighing more than one million pounds and the emission of Phosgene Gas into the environment. Keep in mind that we are talking about a multi-billion dollar company, not just any ordinary corporation that lacks the resources to take the right measures and protect lives and property.

    Various reports have also supported the company’s alleged history of putting profits ahead of their worker’s welfare and “taking safety shortcuts.” Had the company taken the appropriate measures, the health and well-being of East Palestine residents, including their property, would not be at risk as they are right now.

    Phosgene gas is a lethal chemical weapon banned under the Geneva Protocol. It should be remembered that phosgene gas is so lethal that it was responsible for 85% of all chemical-weapons fatalities in World War 1. That explains why it is banned under the Geneva Protocol, and, importantly, why East Palestine residents should be concerned about their health and wellbeing.

  • What Type of Damages Are Being Sought by the Norfolk Southern Class Action Lawsuit?

    Plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit against Norfolk Southern may be entitled to various forms of relief, which include but are not restricted to:

    • medical monitoring;
    • injunctive and declaratory relief;
    • punitive damages; and
    • compensation for injuries, psychological distress, depreciation in property value, and higher risks of potential future diseases.

    To understand the severity of the company’s action, it should be remembered that they made the situation worse by diverting the vinyl chloride into a hastily dug trench and igniting the cancer-causing gas. The ensuing fire burned for days, emitting a thick black smoke plume and spreading toxic chemicals over a wide area.

    The fire also caused anxiety and fear among residents, who were worried about the health consequences of the smoke that spread into their neighborhoods. As a result, Ohio residents can join a class of individuals who either lived, leased, or owned property within a 30-mile radius of the derailment site as of February 3, or individuals who owned or operated a business, commercial property, or farmland in the area when the incident occurred.

    The toxic smoke also contaminated crops and livestock, and forced local businesses to shut down, causing residents to either evacuate or remain locked inside their homes. Some East Palestine residents are still experiencing the negative effects of the derailment, including contaminated groundwater and reduced property values, which they claim are a result of the stigma associated with being located near an environmental disaster.

    And that is understandable. No one wants to buy a house or grow crops in an area that just made headlines for containing toxic chemicals due to another party’s negligence.

  • Should East Palestine Residents Be Concerned About Their Health After the Norfolk Southern Train Derailment?

    Given the toxicity of these gasses and the manner in which the company handled the incident, there is every reason to be concerned. This applies even if your home has been “tested” for air quality.

    Here’s why.

    A recent report by The Guardian revealed how CTEH, an environmental consulting firm, was in charge of conducting air quality tests—free of charge—in the area after the incident.  Eager to learn about the condition of their homes and whether they are habitable, most residents signed the forms authorizing the “testing” without much scrutiny. The team quickly conducted the test using a hand-held device, revealing that no harmful chemicals were detected in the process.

    What most residents did not know is that the test results were not from a government or independent source, but rather provided by CTEH, a contractor hired by Norfolk Southern.

    Furthermore, the report further suggested that, according to independent experts, the air testing results were inadequate in two ways:

    First, CTEH did not detect the full range of harmful chemicals the derailment might have released. Secondly, the sampling duration was insufficient to accurately measure the levels of chemicals tested. In simpler words, the test results may not be as accurate as initially believed, putting the lives of the residents who returned to their homes in more danger.

    The report also revealed that CTEH's website previously contained language that suggested the data they collected on toxic chemicals could be used to protect their clients from liability in lawsuits filed by individuals who claimed harm.  So we’re probably looking at a situation where one company could be working to protect the interests of the other, and not necessarily to defend the rights of the injured.

    Despite this history, CTEH has been tasked with reassuring concerned residents about health risks and has provided a positive assessment publicly. It should also be remembered that the company was responsible for developing the protocol for indoor air testing, not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an independent federal government agency.

    Additionally, CTEH, and not the government, runs a hotline that residents are directed to call if they have concerns about odors, fumes, or health issues. This could be yet another red flag.

  • How Can Morgan & Morgan Help?

    Let’s face it, the whole Norfolk Southern train derailment incident was mismanaged. It included careless mistakes and decisions that raised concerns about the company’s willingness to protect East Palestine residents from harm.

    And when such incidents occur, most people do not know what to do or where to turn for help. That’s painful, given that the parties responsible for such incidents make billions every year but still fail to protect the lives of innocent people, whose only crime was being in the right place at the wrong time.

    That is where Morgan & Morgan, America’s largest injury firm, comes in.

    Our firm boasts vast experience advocating for individuals affected by environmental disasters caused by human activity. We have a track record of successfully litigating against large corporations all over the country. But don’t take our word for it, we have the results to show.

    We have fought for the injured in cases such as the 2010 BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the 2015 Porter Ranch incident in California, and the 2018 Merrimack Valley gas explosions in Massachusetts, among many others.

  • How Can I Join the Class Action Against Norfolk Southern?

    If you or your loved one was affected by the Norfolk Southern train derailment incident, we may be able to fight for your rights. Class action lawsuits are being filed all over against Norfolk Southern, and you do not want to miss your chance to have your voice heard and rights respected. All you need is a free case evaluation from us.

    Keep in mind that these cases are time-sensitive; act fast and contact us now.

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