Recently, the families of two victims of a freight-train accident that spilled toxic chemicals in Paulsboro, New Jersey have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the railroad company for negligently allowing the train to be derailed and spill dangerous chemicals near the plaintiffs’ homes. The wrongful death suit stems from a November 2012 incident where four train tankers loaded with dangerous chemicals such as vinyl chloride derailed off of a bridge, spilling the chemicals into the waterway.
The plaintiffs in the case, a woman and her adult son, were harmed by the chemical fumes. The woman experienced chest pains before she died due to chemical exposure. The son developed chest pains, respiratory problems, and other health problems from exposure to the chemicals. The lawsuit alleges that the railroad company was negligent by failing to warn the town’s residents of the dangers of the chemicals, and that the train’s engineer recklessly proceeded through a red light over the bridge. The lawsuit also alleges that the railroad companies attempted to buy off residents by promising them a small cash settlement in exchange for waiving their rights in court.
This case is an example of strict liability, which means that a defendant is liable for any wrongs that occur from an activity, regardless of whether or not there was any negligence. Strict liability is only applied when there is an abnormally dangerous and uncommon activity that the defendant is engaged in. Under this doctrine, the defendant has an absolute duty to make the activity safe, and any failure to do so is cause for liability.
However, negligence is also alleged in this lawsuit, because it alleges that the railroad company breached a duty of ordinary care to the plaintiffs by not safeguarding the chemicals against a spill and not warning the residents of the danger. Negligence occurs when a defendant breaches a duty of ordinary care towards the defendant.
Anyone who has lost a relative or loved one due to wrongful death is entitled to a monetary judgment for damages. This is to ensure that they are compensated adequately, and that basic justice and fairness are upheld. Anyone impacted by a wrongful death is entitled to an appropriate amount of damages.
Source: The Pennsylvania Record, “First wrongful death claim filed over ’12 Jersey freight train derailment,” Jon Campisi, March 6, 2013.