Lawsuits Filed Against Norfolk Southern Over Ohio Train Derailment

Lawsuits Filed Against Norfolk Southern Over Ohio Train Derailment

On February 3rd, 2023, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, spilling toxic chemicals and contaminating local water sources, soil, and air. There have been widespread reports of illness amongst the residents of East Palestine, and many were displaced from their homes while cleanup took place. As a result, thousands of people have incurred unexpected costs related to the crash, including medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress.

Residents of East Palestine may be entitled to recover compensation for the damages they sustained as a consequence of the Norfolk Southern train derailment. Several lawsuits have already been filed against Norfolk Southern in a class action with many more claims expected to be filed against the company in the near future. 

Those affected by this disaster should consider hiring a personal injury lawyer with the resources and legal knowledge to make an effective claim for damages. 

Toxic Chemicals Contaminate Water After Train Derailment

The Norfolk Southern train that derailed near East Palestine, Ohio was carrying many hazardous chemicals that are now creating a serious health crisis in the area. One of the most notable toxins released in the train derailment was vinyl chloride, a highly flammable industrial chemical. 

Vinyl chloride is typically used for commercial purposes, such as making PVC pipe and wire coatings. It is also a known carcinogen, with links to liver cancer, leukemia, brain cancer, and lung cancer. Of the 11 derailed cars that were carrying hazardous materials, 5 of those contained vinyl chloride. 

Crews conducted a controlled burn to dispose of the vinyl chloride gas. However, this burn carried its own risks. When vinyl chloride is burned, it can create other toxic gases like carbon monoxide and phosgene. To speak to the danger of these byproducts, carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas, and phosgene was used as a chemical weapon during World War I. 

In the aftermath of the train derailment, chemicals like butyl acrylate leached into the soil and nearby water sources like the Ohio River, killing thousands of fish downstream. The EPA has since reassured residents that the municipal water supply remains safe. The EPA, with the support of other state and federal agencies, continues to conduct tests to ensure that air and water quality meet their standards. Meanwhile, residents who have returned are complaining of numerous symptoms.

Injuries Reported After the East Palestine Train Derailment

Significant or long-term exposure to vinyl chloride can lead to numerous health issues, including several types of cancer. Previous instances of vinyl chloride contaminating water include the notorious chemical spills at Camp Lejeune, which resulted in extensive damage to the surrounding community. 

Even decades after exposure, the plaintiffs in the Camp Lejeune lawsuits are still dealing with the ramifications of ingesting or inhaling toxic chemicals like vinyl chloride.

Thus far, the symptoms reported in East Palestine include the following:

  • Rashes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Headaches 
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea 
  • Coughing
  • Swollen eyes

If you develop any unusual symptoms after being exposed to the toxic chemicals associated with the East Palestine train derailment, you should not hesitate to seek medical attention. Not only is this important to protecting your health and monitoring the health of your community, but is also a precaution to protect a future claim you may decide to make. 

If you forgo medical treatment and your condition persists or worsens, the defendants will use that to argue you exaggerated your health issues. In that scenario, they may have the leverage to diminish or reject your claim altogether, leaving you without the compensation you need. A personal injury lawyer can help you avoid pitfalls that injured clients commonly make.

Recovering Damages in an Ohio Train Lawsuit

Residents of East Palestine may be eligible to file personal injury lawsuits in order to cover the costs of their current and future losses. For example, residents who were exposed to unhealthy levels of vinyl chloride may be dealing with the costs associated with being displaced from their homes in the short term, but they may eventually need to receive treatment for liver cancer

Compensatory damages can reimburse injured plaintiffs for their losses in a personal injury lawsuit. Plaintiffs can claim both economic and non-economic damages, depending on how their injuries have impacted them. 

Economic damages refer to monetary losses that can be directly accounted for with a bill or other type of receipt. Plaintiffs may also suffer emotional or intangible consequences related to their injuries, which can be compensated with non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit.

Examples of Damages in an Ohio Water Contamination Lawsuit:

  • Medical expenses
  • Job-related
    • Lost wages
    • Reduced earning capacity
    • Missed promotions
  • Hotel stays
  • Transportation costs

Who is Liable for the Ohio Train Derailment?

A preliminary report from the NTSB has determined that the likely catalyst for the crash was a wheel bearing that overheated. Surveillance footage shows that the train crew attempted to intervene and slow the train down once they were alerted to this issue by sensors along the track. Reports indicate that the wheel bearing was a scorching 253℉ before the cars derailed.

Depending on the outcome of the National Transportation Safety Board report, Norfolk Southern may be found liable for failing to replace a faulty wheel bearing during regular maintenance. The manufacturer of the overheated wheel bearing could also be considered liable if it is determined that a defect in the product caused the derailment. 

If the wheel bearing was damaged during the distribution process, additional companies may be considered negligent. The liable party or parties will likely be financially responsible for the environmental cleanup required, in addition to the damages accumulated by individual residents of East Palestine. 

The best way to ensure that you are fairly compensated is to hire a personal injury lawyer with experience handling water contamination claims. They will be able to offer you their subject matter expertise, handle communication with other parties, and negotiate a fair settlement. 


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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