Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky Co-Founder Robert Mongeluzzi, Left, And Thomas R. Kline Of Kline & Specter Announce Monday The Launch Of Litigation Against Amtrak In Federal Court In Pennsylvania. P.J. D’Annunzio
A cluster of lawsuits against Amtrak stemming from last week’s derailment that injured over 200 people and killed eight has been filed in Pennsylvania.
At a news conference held by Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky and Kline & Specter, lawyers announced the launch of a group of cases against Amtrak in federal court in Pennsylvania.
Saltz Mongeluzzi co-founder Robert Mongeluzzi, who is representing four clients along with Thomas R. Kline of Kline & Specter, repeatedly characterized the accident as “a scene out of hell,” and within the derailed train cars, “a scene of indescribable horror.”
Speed kills, Mongeluzzi said, and it was the primary factor in causing the train’s derailment. He also dismissed the alternate theory that a projectile striking the train could have caused the accident.
“The train was speeding. … There is no excuse for a train to be going twice the legal limit,” Mongeluzzi said. “The claim that some projectile hit the train is utterly irrelevant, a red herring.”
Both Kline and Mongeluzzi said they look forward to deposing the engineer operating train 188 who claimed he could not remember anything from the accident.
“The conduct of the engineer is both unconscionable and unfathomable,” Kline said.
Robert Goggin III, the attorney for engineer Brandon Bostian-who was not named as a defendant in the master complaint-did not return a call seeking comment. An Amtrak spokesman said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
In addition to being responsible for the excessive speed of the train as it approached a sharp curve in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, Kline said Amtrak declined to install safety controls that would have regulated the speed of the train.
“That was the deadly choice that Amtrak made,” Kline said.
The four plaintiffs in the suits handled by Kline and Mongeluzzi include Felicidad Redondo Iban, 64, of Leon, Spain, whose right arm was nearly severed in the accident; her cousin, Maria Jesus Redondo Iban, 55, who suffered a concussion and lacerations to the face; Daniel Armyn, 43, of Brooklyn, New York, who sustained three broken ribs and lost teeth; and Amy Miller, 39, of Princeton, New Jersey, who suffered back injuries and numerous cuts.
Mongeluzzi and Kline said they are speaking to more potential clients but have not as of yet been approached by the families of any of the deceased passengers.
In an interview with The Legal, Slade McLaughlin and Paul Lauricella of McLaughlin & Lauricella also said they have filed a case in federal court and are talking to prospective clients, which have included discussions about a wrongful-death case.
The plaintiff in their current case, Megan Piccirillo, 20, of Malverne, New York, sustained head and shoulder trauma and knee injuries, according to McLaughlin. Lauricella said it is not likely that Amtrak will choose to litigate given the magnitude of the accident.
“You’d think that Amtrak would take a page from the Penn State playbook and pony up its money to spare these people from protracted litigation,” Lauricella said.
As for the engineer’s memory lapse, McLaughlin said, “There’s probably some legitimacy to that.” McLaughlin wants to review alcohol and drug testing results as well as the engineer’s cellphone records. McLaughlin said he wanted to determine whether intoxication or distraction played a part in the accident.
And while the total payout from Amtrak to the plaintiffs is statutorily capped at $200 million, McLaughlin and Lauricella said there would still be enough to go around for each plaintiff.
“You could say $200 million doesn’t buy what it used to, but it’s still $200 million,” Lauricella said.
However, Kline said at the conference that he may fight the damages cap. “Congress could change this with the stroke of a pen,” he said.
“There will be a point and time in this litigation when it will be likely necessary to challenge the cap,” he added.
Mongeluzzi said in cases like the Pier 34 collapse in Philadelphia and the Tropicana Casino parking garage collapse in Atlantic City, New Jersey, an arbitrator determined the percentage of the funds each plaintiff received, which will likely be the case in the Amtrak litigation.
On May 14, Michael J. Olley of Coffey Kaye Myers & Olley confirmed that his firm filed a suit on behalf of Amtrak employee Bruce Phillips. Phillips was not part of the crew working that night, but rather was being transported back to New York, Olley said.
According to the complaint, he is filing as an employee under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act.
Olley’s firm has long represented railroad employees in FELA actions. He had said the firm has received a number of calls from victims, but so far has only filed the one suit.
He said they waited to file the suit until all of the passengers were accounted for.
According to the complaint, Phillips suffered traumatic brain injury, contusions and lacerations, orthopedic and neurological injuries, and emotional trauma.