Crime & Courts

Train crash lawsuit alleges ‘gross negligence’ by CSX in fatal SC derailment

Hear urgent 911 calls from passengers aboard Amtrak train crash in SC

Listen to various 911 phone calls made in late-night hours from passengers who were aboard the Amtrak train crash that happened on Feb. 4, 2018 in Cayce, SC.
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Listen to various 911 phone calls made in late-night hours from passengers who were aboard the Amtrak train crash that happened on Feb. 4, 2018 in Cayce, SC.

An Amtrak passenger has filed one of the first, if not the first, lawsuits against CSX in the wake of Sunday’s fatal train crash in Cayce.

The passenger, James Daymon of Florida, is seeking more than $75,000 in damages from CSX. The lawsuit, filed in Circuit Court in Lexington County, alleges the crash was caused by “gross negligence” and “reckless disregard” of safety standards by CSX.

The lawsuit also alleges CSX made a “deliberate decision that it will be cheaper to pay compensatory damages for claims resulting from train wrecks and derailments than to install and maintain an appropriate train control system.”

A CSX spokeswoman said Thursday, “CSX does not comment on litigation.”

The train crash and derailment in Sunday’s predawn hours was among the worst in recent S.C. history. Two people died and more than 100 were injured. The damage to train cars is estimated to be in the millions of dollars.

The lawsuit also alleges major railroads, including CSX, have “defied” a 2008 federal law, called the Rail Safety Improvement Act, by stalling action on modern safety technology – called “positive train control.” That technology was to be in place nationwide by Dec. 31, 2015.

That train safety law was passed in response the 2008 collision of a Union Pacific freight train and a Metrolink passenger train that killed 25 and injured 135.

CSX has announced its most recently quarterly profits of $4.14 billion, the lawsuit notes. It is “totally unjustifiable for CSX to take annual profits in the billions of dollars and simultaneously refuse to fund Positive Train Control to protect the lives of people who ride on its tracks,” the suit says.

Daymon was a passenger on Amtrak’s Silver Service train, which originated in New York and was bound for Miami, according to the lawsuit.

At the time of the crash, the Silver Service was operating at 56 mph on railroad tracks “owned, maintained and operated by CSX,” the lawsuit says.

CSX had taken down its signal system along that section of track and “as a result the railroad switches were being manually controlled by CSX. Train operations were being manually directed by CSX through telephone communications,” according to the lawsuit.

Before the Silver Service arrived on the scene, “CSX improperly locked with a padlock the rail switch, which erroneously directed through trains, like the Silver Service train, into the CSX railyard onto the wrong set of tracks, which were already occupied by parked trains and rail cars,” the lawsuit said.

“As a result of the improper locking of the switch by CSX, the Silver Service train was directed onto the wrong set of tracks,” the lawsuit says.

The Silver Service’s engineer applied the brakes but it was too late and his train “crashed head-on into the idling CSX train,” the lawsuit said.

“CSX has a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid injuring or killing members of the public,” the lawsuit said. “In this case, CSX breached their duty by failing to exercise reasonable care.”

The lawsuit was filed by attorney Carl Solomon of Columbia and Bob Pottroff of Kansas, a nationally known railroad safety lawyer. Pottroff and Solomon also represented plaintiffs in South Carolina’s 2005 Graniteville fatal train crash, involving two Norfolk Southern trains.

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