Amtrak will concede that it’s liable for most damages caused by the May 12 train derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight passengers and injured dozens. The railroad acknowledged in responses to two lawsuits that it won’t contest compensatory liability, meaning it will pay for wrongful deaths, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. So far, Amtrak faces 26 lawsuits filed by 36 passengers. Two employees also sued.
The transit agency admitted in legal filings Friday that its train was "traveling in excess of the allowable speed" when it derailed in Philadelphia.
Federal safety investigators say it moved at 106 miles per hour, or twice the speed limit. By saying it’s willing to pay those among the 238 passengers who deserve damages, Amtrak removed a potentially time-consuming hurdle to the litigation.
“It’s a very significant development,” said attorney Thomas Kline of Kline & Specter in Philadelphia, who represents passengers. “That is tantamount to an admission of negligence. It means all of those who were injured and lost loved ones are entitled to be compensated.”
Lawyers for passengers say that beyond compensatory damages, they may also pursue punitive damages to punish the railroad. Federal law caps total damages for passengers at $200 million. Employees who sue aren’t subject to that limit.