Am­trak to pay $265 mil­lion for crash that killed 8

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Maryclaire Dale

PHILADEL­PHIA >> Am­trak will pay $265 mil­lion to set­tle claims re­lated to a crash last year that killed eight peo­ple and in­jured more than 200 oth­ers when a speed­ing train de­railed on a curve.

The set­tle­ment al­lows vic­tims to have their awards in hand by June in­stead of wait­ing years for law­suits to play out, their lawyers said Thurs­day. The dead­line to join the set­tle­ment pro­gram is Nov. 21.

“The pro­gram ba­si­cally al­lows for a judge, with help from two masters, to hold hear­ings and eval­u­ate dam­ages,” said lawyer Thomas R. Kline, who led the team of plain­tiffs’ lawyers ne­go­ti­at­ing with Am­trak.

U.S. District Judge Le­grome D. Davis of Philadel­phia ap­proved the set­tle­ment Thurs­day.

Am­trak had pre­vi­ously taken re­spon­si­bil­ity for the May 2015 crash in Philadel­phia of the North­east Re­gional train trav­el­ing from Wash­ing­ton to New York. Fed­eral law caps pay­outs for any one ac­ci­dent at $295 mil­lion.

Am­trak has agreed to put up the money by Feb. 28. In­di­vid­u­als may get the full value of their claims — or more or less — de­pend­ing on how far the set­tle­ment fund stretches. Vic­tims will have the op­por­tu­nity to tes­tify at hear­ings or sub­mit doc­u­ments de­scrib­ing their or­deal. Some say they’ve racked up mil­lions of dol­lars in med­i­cal bills.

A U.S. Naval Academy mid­ship­man, a col­lege dean and sev­eral busi­ness­peo­ple — in­clud­ing Jim Gaines, an As­so­ci­ated Press video soft­ware ar­chi­tect — were among those killed in the man­gled front cars. Award­win­ning chef Eli Kulp was left par­a­lyzed and can’t use his hands.

“His life has been im­mea­sur­ably al­tered and will never be any dif­fer­ent from the way it is now,” said Kulp’s lawyer, Bene­dict Morelli. “He ob­vi­ously now can’t prac­tice his craft. He has been so di­min­ished with what he could achieve in his life.”

Fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors have con­cluded the en­gi­neer was dis­tracted by word that a nearby train had been hit by a rock. They say en­gi­neer Bran­don Bostian didn’t re­al­ize where he was and ac­cel­er­ated full-throt­tle to 106 mph in­stead of slow­ing down for the curve’s 50 mph speed limit.

Am­trak in a state­ment said it ap­pre­ci­ates the court’s help in re­solv­ing the lit­i­ga­tion but other­wise did not plan to com­ment. Bostian, re­garded by friends for his safety-mind­ed­ness and love of rail­road­ing, has been sus­pended with­out pay since the crash.

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