Injured Iowa Woman First Amtrak Passenger to File Lawsuit Following Fatal Missouri Derailment

National railroad disaster attorneys at Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky PC today filed what is believed to be the first lawsuit on behalf of a passenger injured in Monday’s fatal, mass-casualty Amtrak train derailment in Mendon, Missouri.

The complaint alleges negligence in the design of the railroad crossing which lacked basic safety features like warning lights and gates which have been in use for more than a century. The complaint also alleges that the train was oversold resulting in cattle car conditions.  

The multi-count complaint against defendants Amtrak, BNSF Railway, and MS Contracting, LLC, Inc., filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, details the physical and emotional injuries suffered by Janet Williams, of Dubuque, Iowa, who was returning home from a family visit in New Mexico when she was suddenly thrown from her seat, struck by luggage, and crushed by other passengers as her train car flipped onto its side. 

Railroad safety attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi, President of SMB, said following the filing, “Amtrak, the operator of the train, and BNSF, the owner of the tracks, failed to use basic railroad crossing safety devices  such as warning lights and crossing gates. The first patent for railroad crossing gates was issued on in the August 27, 1867.  It is outrageous that these defendants didn’t utilize these simple, effective and inexpensive safety devices that have been saving lives for over 150 years.”

SMB Partner Jeffrey P. Goodman, head of the firm’s Railway Accident Litigation Group, added

As we state in today’s filing, Amtrak intentionally overcrowded this train in Kansas City by allowing additional passengers on the train, which Amtrak knew did not have available seats. The additional passengers and luggage resulted in cattle-car overcrowding and placed all passengers in harm’s way.” 

Goodman added, “although we continue to fully investigate all causes of this tragedy, it appears at this preliminary stage that the overcrowding of train cars was a vital safety failure by Amtrak, the effects of which can be seen by the extent of serious injuries and deaths.”  

Mr. Goodman noted that Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky PC has already lined up a team of world class experts to investigate this tragedy including former NTSB investigators, train operators, accident reconstructionists, and biomechanical engineers. 

The attorneys representing Mrs. Williams said she is still in shock from the incident, but she vividly recalls, prior to the Kansas City stop, announcements from the train crew stating the train was overly crowded and that passengers would have to occupy any available space, including the café and observation cars.  Their co-counsel is Greg G. Gutzler, of Chicago-based DiCello Levitt Gutzler. 

Philadelphia-based trial attorneys Mongeluzzi and Goodman have been among the lead lawyers in numerous catastrophic derailments including the 2015 derailment of Amtrak Train 188 that killed eight people; the 2021 derailment of an Amtrak train in Montana that killed three people, and other fatal crashes in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. They have consistently advocated for sweeping rail safety upgrades,  including Positive Train Control (PTC), better controlled crossings, and safer railcars, which would improve the survivability of accidents.  

In addition to their experience representing victims in train derailments, Mr. Mongeluzzi and Mr. Goodman previously were the lead lawyers for the victims in the sinking of amphibious Stretch Duck Boat 07 in Branson, Missouri in 2018 that killed 17 people. 

Contacts:

Robert J. Mongeluzzi / rmongeluzzi@smbb.com / 215-850-6571

Jeffrey P. Goodman / jgoodman@smbb.com / 215-840-6450

Steph Rosenfeld / / steph@idadvisors.com / 215-514-4101

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