Federal judge orders lawyers to consolidate 18 Norfolk Southern negligence suits
People impacted by derailment, fire, and chemical spill in East Palestine could have a better idea next week if they’ll be eligible to join a negligence lawsuit against Norfolk Southern railroad.
U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson has ordered law firms behind the 18 class action complaints filed so far in the aftermath of the February 3 incident to consolidate the complaints into one lawsuit.
In addition to combining the allegations against Norfolk Southern and requests for damages, the single complaint would also spell out who the lawyers believe should be permitted to join the class action.
Lawsuits filed thus far ask the court to allow a class action that includes residents, workers, and businesses as close as one mile from the derailment to those as far as 30 miles away.
A map filed with one of the complaints shows a 30-mile radius would include communities as far away as Columbiana, Lisbon, Salem, East Liverpool, Alliance, Boardman Youngstown, Austintown, Niles, and Hubbard in Ohio, as well as Aliquippa, Cranberry, Ellwood City, New Castle, New Wilmington, Sharon, and Hermitage in Pennsylvania.
The 18 suits also allege numerous reasons for the derailment, including “poor” railcar placement, failed safety features, and defects in the track system.
Tasked with the job of creating a single complaint are attorneys Seth A. Katz and M. Elizabeth Graham whose law firms filed the first lawsuit naming Pennsylvania residents as plaintiffs.
Attorney Jayne Conroy, who filed the first class action suit just four days after the derailment, has been ordered to submit the final version of the motion to Judge Pearson by Wednesday.
Since many of the suits were filed, more information has come out, including a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board which cites a faulty wheel bearing in a rail car that caught fire as the train approached East Palestine.