First Responders Sue Conrail Over Paulsboro Train Wreck

A dozen police officers who responded to a November train derailment in Paulsboro have sued Conrail and its parent companies, CSX and Norfolk Southern Railway.

The suit alleges Conrail and its parent companies were “negligent in operating the train and railroad bridge” and had received nearly two dozen reports of malfunctions with the swing bridge in the year before the derailment.

“This was a clear case of Conrail knowing it had a chronically deficient condition in that bridge and repeatedly failed to take the necessary corrective measures,” Robert Mongeluzzi, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

Family members of several officers from Paulsboro and Greenwich – as well as a borough public works employee and his family – also are among the 24 plaintiffs listed in the seven-count lawsuit filed Monday in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas. They seek an unknown amount of compensatory and punitive damages.

More than 100,000 pounds of vinyl chloride was released Nov. 30 when a Conrail train derailed as it crossed the East Jefferson Street Bridge and sent four tanker cars into Mantua Creek.

The lawsuit also claims the companies and their workers “misled the public about the extent of the exposure.” Mongeluzzi said Conrail “significantly downplayed” the severity of the threat while first responders were exposed to a dangerous carcinogen.

The companies allegedly failed to promptly conduct the urine tests used to determine exposure to the chemical and lost a substantial number of samples, according to the suit. It also claims that while Conrail workers were given protective equipment, none was made available to the first responders until days after the derailment.

Conrail spokesman Mike Hotra said the companies will respond through their legal filings in court.

More than 250 residents and workers affected by the derailment have filed suit, according to law firms representing the plaintiffs. Among them is the family of a 77-year-old Paulsboro woman who lived near the site and died three days after the wreck.

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