Teen nearly killed in deadly Amtrak 501 derailment latest to sue
On Dec. 18, 2017, then 16-year-old Timmy Brodigan was on an Amtrak train to Oregon to visit family. He was among those on the inaugural trip of the new Point Defiance Bypass route. At 7:33 a.m., the engineer took a 30-mile an hour curve at roughly 80 mph derailing the train and sending several of its cars crashing down on I-5 in DuPont, in some cases onto vehicles on the freeway. Three people on the train died, dozens were hurt, including Brodigan who was later found, severely injured, buried in the debris of the wreck.
The teen was lucky to be alive, but a broken neck, spinal and other injuries left him virtually wheelchair-bound, changing his life forever. The three agencies responsible for ensuring the route was safe for service failed, miserably, according to attorney Todd Gardner who filed a lawsuit on behalf of Brodigan and his parents Wednesday against Amtrak, Sound Transit, and the State of Washington.
“We need to help Timmy Brodigan,” Gardner said at a press conference announcing the legal action.
The goal of the lawsuit is two-fold.
“Timmy is going to need help for his entire life, medically and in terms of care of support to have the best chance he can possibly have at reaching his potential as a young man,” Gardner said, noting the need to ensure there is plenty of money for the now 18-year-old to get all of the advanced treatment and care he needs – forever.
The second objective:
“We want to provide an open forum, which the court rooms are, to really learning the interplay between Amtrak, Sound Transit and the DOT to figure out what happened in the hope that it doesn’t happen again,” Gardner said.
Gardner points to the NTSB report that showed all three agencies were negligent, from not installing positive train control to not properly training the engineer.
The agencies, “violated their duties as a common carrier, were negligent, engaged in willful misconduct and/or acted with a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of others, including Tim Brodigan,” court documents state.
Sound Transit set Amtrak up to fail, by engaging,”in willful misconduct and/or acted with a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights and/or safety of others, including Tim Brodigan,” Gardner contends in court papers, providing a list of failures by Amtrak.
- Failed to properly train and/or supervise its agents and employees for operations on the Point Defiance Bypass, operation of the Charger Locomotive and in overall proper train control safety and speed reductions.
- Failed to comply with its own operational and safety plan, rules, standards and procedures.
- Failed to install and render operable proper train control safety, speed and location systems.
- Failed to slow Train 501 when its employees knew or should have known that the speed was too fast for the sharp and dangerous curve at MP 19.8.
- Failed to observe signs, landmarks and other physical characteristics in sufficient time to slow Train 501 prior to entering the sharp and dangerous curve at MP 19.8.
- Operated the train greatly in excess of the authorized, posted and safe speed limit of 30 mph at the sharp and dangerous curve at MP 19.8.
- Failed to train or otherwise require that its crew communicate directly prior to MP 19.8 about the upcoming curve and reduction in speed limit from 79 mph to 30 mph, or require additional -mitigation for the dangers created by this curve prior to the initiation of revenue service.
For Sound Transit the list includes:
- Failed to complete the installation of PTC on the Point Defiance Bypass prior to certifying the Bypass as safe for revenue service commencing on December 18, 2017.
- Failed to provide appropriate, safe and effective mitigations for the hazard created by the curve created at MP 19.8, particularly given the failure to complete the installation of PTC on the Bypass.
- Failed to post meaningful and effective speed reduction signs prior to MP 19.8.
- Failed to properly follow its Safety and Security Management Plan and failed to update the Preliminary Hazard Analysis to reflect the fact that PTC had not been implemented as of December 18, 2017.
And for WSDOT the list of failures includes:
- Failed to provide reasonable and meaningful oversight of Sound Transit’s safety certification process.
- Failed to provide reasonable and meaningful oversight of Sound Transit’s work and operation of the Point Defiance Bypass as its contractor.
- Failed to fulfill to responsibility for ensuring that the Point Defiance Bypass was safe to operate prior to initiating revenue service.
Gardner declined to say exactly how much he would be seeking for damages, but did say it would absolutely be in the millions.
This lawsuit over the Amtrak 501 derailment is the first to name Sound Transit and Washington State as defendants, in addition to Amtrak.
None of the companies had any comment on the lawsuit.