Posts Tagged ‘lawsuits’

Lawsuit Will Seek to Halt Texas Rail Line

April 15, 2021

A Texas county has joined a lawsuit seeking to block Texas Central from building a high-speed rail line in the Lone Star state.

Commissioners in Navarro County have retained a Dallas law firm, which has agreed to represent the county at no cost in a multi-party suit including several other counties.

The lawsuit is expected to be brought against the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration over an environmental impact study related to the project.

Virgin Sues Brightline Over Dropping Virgin Name

March 13, 2021

Virgin Enterprises has filed suit against Brightline over its dropping of the “Virgin Trains” brand name.

The $251 million lawsuit contends Brightline reneged on a 20-year licensing deal by claiming the Virgin brand had been damaged and was no longer “a brand of international high repute.”

The lawsuit says that that claim is “cynical and spurious.”

The two agreement between the two parties had been reached in 2018 but Brightline said last year it was dropping out of the agreement.

Virgin’s lawsuit said the amount it is seeking will cover royalties to this point plus an early termination fee.

Florida County to Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

May 26, 2020

A Florida County that has long opposed the efforts of Brightline to build an extension to Orlando is making a last ditch appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Indian River County contends that Virgin Trains USA, which operates the Brightline service, should not be eligible for $2.7 billion of tax-exempt private activity bonds.

The bonds are being used to finance construction of the Orlando extension.

The Florida county argues that there is an open question about whether a federal agency can interpret the law and whether courts should defer to that interpretation.

In a legal brief, the county said the matter is “critical to the separation of powers” between agencies and the courts.

Indiana River County has been fighting and losing in the courts for years in its efforts to thwart Brightline.

It’s most recent setback was a federal appeals court ruling that Virgin can use the bonds as intended for expansion.

County officials have approved $200,000 to make one appeal to the Supreme Court.

Court Rules Texas Central is a Railroad

May 10, 2020

A Texas appeals court has ruled that Texas Central Railway is for legal purposes a railroad and an interurban electric railway.

The decision, written by Justice Nora Longoria of the Thirteen District Court of Appeals, overturned a lower court ruling and sent that case back to that court for further review.

Justice Logoria said the lower court erred when it concluded Texas Central was not a railroad because it is not yet operating trains or acting like a railroad in doing such things as land surveys or claiming the potential to exercise eminent domain.

“Considering the legislature’s instruction to view present tense as including future tense in the statute and the actions taken by appellants to begin to operate a railroad, we conclude that TCRI [Texas Central Railroad & Infrastructure, Inc.] and ITL [Integrated Texas Logistics, Inc.] are railroad companies,” Justice Longoria wrote in a 20-page opinion filed on May 7.

The case began when a land owner, James Miles, objected to a request by Texas Central to survey his land as a potential route for its proposed Dallas-Houston high-speed rail line.

Miles and other land owners in Leon County took Texas Central to court and raised the question of whether it was an actual railroad that would have the power of eminent domain.

“To the extent that Miles contends that this statute does not extend to high-speed rails, but rather was intended for ‘localized, electronic trolley-car companies of a century ago,’ we find nothing in the statute to confirm this assertion,” Justice Longoria wrote about the assertion that Texas Central was not a interurban railway.

The Federal Railroad Administration is expected to release a final environmental impact statement on the project later this month.

Washington State Man Sues Over Cascade Derailment

March 3, 2020

A Washington State man has filed a lawsuit seeking damages to compensate him for injuries suffered in a December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades Service train near DuPont, Washington.

The lawsuit was filed by Timmy Brodigan, who was 16 at the time of the derailment.

The suit said he suffered a broken neck that has left him paralyzed.

The suit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages, names Amtrak, the Washington State Department of Transportation and Sound Transit.

Although no damages amount was specified, the suit is seeking millions of dollars.

Although others filed lawsuits following the derailment, in which Cascades No. 501 plunged off a bridge and onto an interstate highway below, Brodigan’s suit is the first to name three defendant organizations.

The derailment left three dead and more than 60 injured.

A federal court jury earlier awarded $17 million to three victims in earliers cases.

An attorney representing Brodigan, Todd Gardner, said the negligence of the defendants resulted in his client now being dependent on a wheelchair to get around.

“He’d like his life back. He knows he’s not going to get that,” Gardner said at a news conference.

None of the defendants would comment on the lawsuit when asked about it by news media in Washington State.

Brodner’s lawsuit contends that Amtrak’s use of the Point Defiance Bypass south of Tacoma was rushed into service without adequate preparation.

The Dec. 18, 2017, derailment occurred on the first day of revenue service on the route.

Neither Amtrak nor Sound Transit has used the route since the derailment.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded that the Amtrak train was traveling nearly 80 miles per hour entering a 30-mph curve.

The NTSB report also noted that route did not yet have a positive train control system in operation at the time of the derailment.

Amtrak Seeks Dismissal of Arbitration Lawsuit

March 3, 2020

Amtrak is seeking to have a court dismiss a lawsuit that contends the passenger carrier violated the law when it included a mandatory arbitration clause in its condition of carriage contract.

Amtrak attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the suit, claiming the plaintiffs lack standing to sue and that the constitutional claims made in the lawsuit are invalid.

The lawsuit was filed by Public Citizen, an advocacy group on behalf of consumer rights.

In its motion, Amtrak said one of the two listed plaintiffs has not bought an Amtrak ticket and neither of the listed plaintiffs have been subjected to the arbitration clause.

As for the constitutional claims in the lawsuit, Amtrak said it “is not the government for purposes of implementing an arbitration agreement and so no constitutional claim can stand.”

The passenger carrier argued that even if a court were to rule that it is considered the government, “it is well established that government arbitration poses no per se constitutional problem.”

Amtrak lawyers have also argued that the lawsuits constitutional arguments are “so expansive in application that they could derail both public and private arbitration.”

Jury Awards Man $10M in Cascades Crash

February 14, 2020

A Washington State man was awarded more than $10 million this week by a jury for injuries he suffered in a December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train.

Donnell Linton, 47 of Renton, was a passenger aboard the train, which derailed and crashed onto an interstate highway below in an accident that left three dead and dozens injured.

The jurors returned the verdict in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Linton is the second plaintiff to win damages from Amtrak in connection with the derailment.

Linton’s attorneys said he suffered fractures to his face, shoulder and ribs and is still receiving medical treatment.

He was traveling with his now 14-uyear-old son, who suffered some facial fractures.

An attorney said the elder Linton and his son were thrown from the train and landed on the highway.

Lawyers say other personal injury cases in connection with the derailment are pending while some cases have been settled out of court.

Woman Awarded $4.5M in Cascades Lawsuit

November 14, 2019

A jury has awarded a woman injured in the December 2017 of an Amtrak Cascades train $4.5 million in damages.

The award was made in a Federal District Court in Tacoma, Washington, to Madeline Garza.

She was a passenger aboard the southbound train No. 501 when it derailed on a curve in DuPont, Washington.

A news release issued by Garza’s attorney said she was found lying on her back on the ceiling of an overturned passenger car.

The news release said Garza, who was 18 at the time of the crash, suffered a major injury to her pelvis and lower spine, as well as three fractured ribs and a lacerated liver.

Her case was the second to go to trial stemming from the derailment.

Three other plaintiffs who sued Amtrak were in September awarded nearly $17 million combined for pain and suffering.

The derailment had sent part of the train tumbling off a bridge onto Interstate 5. Three passengers were killed and more than 60 others injured.

A National Transportation Safety Board Investigation determined that the train was going faster than the posted speed limited for the curve when the derailment occurred.

The train was making the first revenue run on the Point Defiance Bypass at the time.

Amtrak immediately returned its Cascades Service trains to the previous route and has yet to resume using the Point Defiance route.

Amtrak Sued for Breach of Contract Over Locomotives

November 12, 2019

Amtrak has been sued in a federal court in New York in an attempt to recover $92.9 million that the plaintiffs say is what they are owed for a breach of contract for long-retired electric locomotives used in the Northeast Corridor.

The suit was filed by Philip Morris Capital Corporation and HNB Investment Corporation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The plaintiffs allege that Amtrak breached a $250 million contract for a fleet of [locomotives] used on the Northeast Corridor by taking the eight HHP-8 locomotives out of service and stripping them for parts.

Amtrak claimed that the locomotives were unreliable and the lawsuit contends that Amtrak “cannibalized” the locomotives for parts.

The passenger carrier is also alleged to have denied any default and has urged guarantor Export Development Canada reject claims made by PMCC and HNB.

“‘We value our business partners and worked hard to find a business solution to this dispute, but Amtrak refused,” PMCC spokesperson Steve Callahan told the website Law360.

“Amtrak’s conduct left us no choice but to sue to enforce our contracts and seek relief from Amtrak’s business practices.”

The lawsuit says PMCC and HNB bought $250 million of equipment from Canadian manufacturer Bombardier and French engineering company Alstom, and Amtrak agreed to lease that equipment “as is” through at least 2022.

The agreement called for guarantor EDC to pay for the equipment if Amtrak breached the contract.

The plaintiffs allege that in 2015 sought to replace the HHP-8s but PMCC and HNB claim they found this out from news reports.

PMCC and HNB contend that Amtrak made a series of misleading statements, including that it had made no decision on the equipment.

It was later that year that PMCC and HNB found out that Amtrak had retired the HHP-8s because the carrier decided it wasn’t economical to repair a part of [their propulsion] system, the lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs contend that Amtrak failed to perform required maintenance procedures in the years leading up to it conclusion that the HHP-8s were unreliable.

In November 2016, PMCC and HNB say they asked Amtrak for all amounts due on the lease but the carrier instead proposed a buyout to resolve the claims on the lease.

Then in April 2017, the plaintiffs say, Amtrak performed a “bait and switch” and asked for a buyout proposal from the equipment owners after months of conversations regarding when the offer would come.

PMCC and HNB allege that they inspected the equipment to ensure that that it was out of service but instead found it “in a total disassembled state” and “cannibalized for parts.”

The inspection also discovered that all eight locomotives had been retired by early 2015 and four of them “being stored in a[n] unusual condition.”

The lawsuit contends that Amtrak’s financial condition was such that it was unable to make a buyout proposal and instead was seeking to “stonewall” Philip Morris and HNB.

The plaintiffs allege that Amtrak denied any event of default in December 2017 and urged EDC to deny payment on the guarantee.

The HHP locomotive were ordered in 1996 from a Bombardier/Alstom consortium with financing from various financial institutions including PMCC and HNB, which hold the leases on eight of the 15 HHP-8s that Amtrak ordered.

Amtrak operated the HHP-8 locomotives for about 10 years before replacing them with Siemens ACS-64 locomotives. The last of the HHP-8 units was retired on Nov. 7, 2014.

Jury Awards $16.75M in Cascade Derailment Civil Trial

September 17, 2019

A jury has awarded $16.75 million in damages to two victims and the spouse of one of them stemming from the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train.

The eight-member jury in a federal court in Tacoma, Washington, awarded Dale Skyllingstad $7.75 million, $7 million to Blaine Wilmotte and $2 million to Madison Wilmotte.

A case involving plaintiff Aaron Harris will be heard later.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle had declared a mistrial in the case involving Aaron Harris due to a dispute over testimony by an expert witness about injuries that Harris sustained in the derailment.

At the onset of the trial, Amtrak attorney Mark Landman conceded the passenger carrier had acted negligently and accepted responsibility.

The trial therefore focused on the severity of the injuries that the plaintiffs suffered and the extent of their recovery.

An attorney for Skyllingstad described him as a railroad enthusiast who suffered a traumatic brain injury that has left him with lasting emotional effects.

Testimony showed that he suffered a broken pelvis, a spinal fracture, a cranial fracture and lacerations on his liver and kidney after his was ejected from a Talgo coach during the derailment.

Blaine Wilmotte was in a pickup truck on Interstate 5 when the train derailed on a bridged and landed on his truck, trapping him there for 90 minutes.

Attorneys said he suffered multiple broken bones, personality and behavior changes, anxiety, and a diminished capacity to work.

Madison Wilmotte, who was pregnant at the time of the derailment, sought damages because of the impact of her husband’ injuries and the emotional toll on their marriage.

The train was southbound on the Point Defiance Bypass on the first day of revenue service on the route.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the train was speeding as it entered a 30 mph speed zone on curve.

More than 30 other plaintiffs have also sued in the wake of the derailment and those cases are set to be heard by Judge Settle.