Victims of a chemical spill caused by a train derailment in Paulsboro, NJ in November have filed a class action lawsuit against the railroad company. Seven cars carrying hazardous chemicals left the track on or near a bridge over Mantua Creek, causing a spillage of vinyl chloride. Emergency services and local residents claim that Conrail advised them they did not need to use breathing masks. In the lawsuit, they also claim that in allowing its train to transport hazardous chemicals across the bridge, Conrail was not just negligent in failing to avoid a foreseeable risk, but it was also reckless, since it had specific knowledge that the bridge may be unsuitable for trains carrying hazardous chemicals.

The law imposes strict safety obligations on railroad carriers transporting hazardous materials such as vinyl chloride. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), an agency of the United States Department of Transportation tasked with promulgating and enforcing regulations, can penalize railroad carriers when these safety obligations are not met. If FRA officials rule that the carrier knowingly violated its obligations and that violation resulted in death, serious illness, severe injury or substantial damage to property, they can impose a maximum penalty of $110,000 per violation. Any railroad employees injured as a result of the failure of the railroad to comply with its safety obligations can seek damages under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA).

If you or your loved one has been affected by a chemical spill caused by a train crash, get in touch with an experienced Minnesota railroad accident attorney to discuss your rights.