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Illinois court deluged by claims from Quebec rail disaster

Less than one month after explosions ripped through a Canadian town, the first of possibly dozens of liability lawsuits was filed against an Illinois company that operates Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Inc. railroad. The head of Rail World Inc. is named as a defendant alongside MMA and several U.S.-based petroleum providers.

The July 6 derailment of an MMA freight train causes blasts and fires in the heart of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, a community of about 6,000 people. At least 47 people died or were presumed dead when their bodies were not recovered.

The community of Lac-Megantic recently announced its intent to take MMA to court for $4 million. The mayor said the damages would cover what the town spent on disaster recovery. The official said the town was forced to pay MMA clean-up workers to remain on the job when their employer refused to foot the bill.

A series of multi-million dollar accident-related wrongful death claims have been filed in Illinois. A Canadian court is also considering a request to allow a class-action lawsuit against the defendants.

One wrongful death case involves the death of a 32-year-old man. The claim for a minimum of $200,000 was filed by the train disaster victim's estate administrator on behalf of the man's minor child.

The lawsuit requests a jury trial to decide whether defendants followed unsafe practices. The claim alleges company executives ignored warnings that oil tanker cars, like the ones that derailed and exploded, were faulty. The suit also blames the Rail World CEO for endangering the public by employing skeleton crews to cut MMA costs.

Lac-Megantic's mayor believes MMA must be held accountable as a "proper corporate citizen," which is the premise for all liability actions against negligent, unsafe businesses. The outcome of wrongful death claims can result in millions of dollars in settlements or significant compensatory and punitive damages.

Source:  winnipegfreepress.com, "Lawsuit filed in U.S. court over Quebec rail disaster first of many, says lawyer" Andy Blatchford, Jul. 24, 2013

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