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Lawsuits over Blount County derailment continue after settlement

Residents of Blount County who had to leave their homes and business owners forced to close their doors for a time after a train derailment in 2015 have reached a settlement with the railroad company, CSX. The settlement pays over $3.5 million in damages for medical bills and economic losses to those impacted by the derailment as well as to Blount County and the city of Maryville to compensate them for their expenses.

Approximately 5,000 people were forced to evacuate after the 57-car train carrying a toxic chemical called acrylonitrile derailed. The ensuing fire burned for some 19 hours. Thirty-six people had to be hospitalized. Nearly 100 people, including 10 first responders, required medical treatment.

Acrylonitrile, which is used to make plastic products, is carcinogenic. Exposure to it can burn the skin as well as cause inflammation of the nose, throat and lungs. Burning acrylonitrile gives off cyanide.

The cause of the derailment was determined to be a broken axle on one of the cars. According to the settlement, the plaintiffs accused CSX of negligence for allowing the car to continue on for 10 miles after the axle broke and caught fire.

That settlement doesn't mark the end of the lawsuits, however. There are other suits pending against CSX as well as Union Tank Car Co. Emergency workers are suing for damages resulting from their exposure to the toxic gas. Other plaintiffs lived in the two-mile evacuation zone, but aren't claiming exposure to the toxic gas.

As is often the case with this type of accident, there's some conflict over who is to blame. Union Tank Car says that it was CSX's responsibility to inspect the rail car before the train set off on its journey from Ohio to Georgia. However, plaintiffs suing Union Tank Car say that it is responsible since it manufactured the rail car. It was over two decades old at the time of the derailment.

Sometimes cases like this are handled as a class-action suit. However, a judge denied class-action status to plaintiffs.

If you or a loved one has been injured or otherwise impacted by an incident where there were numerous victims, it's best to consult with an experienced Tennessee personal injury attorney to determine what your best legal option is for seeking compensation.

Source: Knox News, "Blount train derailment evacuees settle with railroad; trial begins against rail car maker," Jamie Satterfield, USA Today, Feb. 26, 2018

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