Personal Injury Suits Filed in Wake of 2012 NJ Train Derailment and Chemical Spill

By Greg Kohn

The November 2012 Paulsboro train derailment and chemical spill wreaked havoc among the surrounding community, and despite the recommended procedures set forth in the borough’s emergency guide- evacuating a half-mile radius in such a event- people were forced to shelter in place due to the time, 7:05 a.m., and the amount of people to be evacuated, 1,200-1,500 individuals.

Though a class has yet to be certified, those affected by the derailment and subsequent spill, such as residents and business owners, have been given the green light to pursue class-action claims against Conrail and other rail carriers, as U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler in Camden denied motions by Consolidated Rail Corp., CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway Co. to dismiss class-action allegations in consolidated suits captioned In Re Paulsboro Derailment Cases.

The New Jersey Law Journal reports that the district judge dismissed the carriers’ argument that determining the plaintiffs’ residences for the purpose of establishing the class would require separate proof hearings. Judge Kugler was quoted by the journal as stating: “The area affected by the chemical spill may be shown by discovery to be discrete, the applicable time frame is well established in the pleading, and purported class members either resided or did business within delineated areas or they did not.”

Lawsuits began to emerge shortly after the event, accusing Conrail, the rail system owner, of failing to maintain the bridge, which moves to allow boats on the creek to pass. According to the suits, this bridge had a history of malfunctions. They also allege that the train proceeded against a red signal. Norfolk Southern Railway Co. and CSX Transportation, the freight operators, also are defendants.

Separate individual suits were filed over personal injury, including coughing fits and respiratory maladies, as well as increased risk of cancer and other illnesses those exposed may suffer in the future as a result of the derailment and spill.

Economic-damages suits were consolidated with Kugler. The plaintiffs asked for certification of two subclasses: those who incurred evacuation expenses, such as hotel costs, and those who lost money because of business interruption and were not reimbursed.

The Essex County, NJ Law Office of Nagel Rice has been helping Essex County residents understand their rights following events of this kind as well as car and bike accidents and other personal injury matters for more than 30 years.  Contact Nagel Rice LLP at 973-618-0400 for help with your specific situation.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.