The legal costs for two Metro-North derailments, including one of the deadliest crashes in the commuter railroad’s 33-year history, was more than $38.4 million and is set to climb in the years ahead, a Journal News report has found.
Most of the payouts went to injured passengers or the families of the four victims killed in the Dec. 1, 2013 crash, when a speeding Manhattan-bound Metro-North train derailed along the Hudson River in Spuyten Duyvil, Bronx, according to reports. The city paid roughly $28.2 million in settlements and legal costs.
Another $9.2 million in settlements went to some of the 73 passengers injured when a New Haven line train derailed and hit a train going in the opposite direction on May 17, 2013 in Bridgeport, Conn. The state spent an additional $1 million in legal costs and expenses.
The accidents have prompted federal probes into the safety practices of the nation’s busiest commuter railroad.
Moreover, the settlement numbers are likely to grow, according to USA Today.
Metro-North officials said that 174 of 192 claims in five major accidents since May 2013 have been resolved, mostly through settlements.
Some lawyers with pending claims in the Spuyten Duyvil crash have argued that Metro-North is trying to settle claims to prevent information about the events leading up to the crash from coming to light. These lawyers also claim that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which is Metro-North’s parent, knew about safety issues that might have prevented the crash.
“Metro-North is literally throwing money at us to get these cases settled prematurely,” said Michael Lamonsoff, a lawyer who represents Denise Williams, a doctor from Beacon, N.Y. whose injuries have made it impossible to return to work. “I believe they’re trying to sweep these cases under the rug and get them out of the spotlight.”
The attorneys at Morgan Levine Dolan have represented many people injured in mass transit accidents. During the early stages of the investigation, it is imperative to get private attorneys involved in the process. Too many times, the mass transit carrier performs the investigation and many pieces of evidence are either tampered with or ignored.