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Simi Valley congressman seeks to raise $200-million cap on railroad accident liability

September 16, 2010 |  4:55 pm

A congressman from Simi Valley introduced a bill in Washington on Thursday that would raise the liability cap in certain railroad accidents from $200 million to $500 million -- a change that would apply retroactively to the Metrolink crash in Chatsworth that killed 25 people and injured 135.

The legislation by Rep. Elton Gallegly, a Republican, would affect defendants in lawsuits that are found to be grossly negligent, which differs from the standard established as part of the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997.

“I met with many of the victims of the crash last month,” Gallegly said. “Through no fault of their own, many now have injuries that will require a lifetime of medical treatment. Others lost a spouse or parent who was their primary means of support. The current cap will not even meet the medical needs of the survivors of one of the worst passenger train accidents in modern history.”

The accident occurred Sept. 12, 2008, when a Metrolink engineer texting on his cellphone ran a red signal, causing a collision with a Union Pacific freight train. Based on the current federal liability cap, Metrolink and its train operating contractor, Connex Railroad, have offered to pay victims of the rail disaster up to the current $200 million cap. If a court approves the offer, Metrolink and Connex would be relieved of any additional liability.

-- Dan Weikel