A proposed class action claims negligence on the part of CSX Transportation is to blame for a Kentucky train derailment and chemical fire last month that pumped toxic gas into the surrounding community.
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The 24-page lawsuit alleges that the freight railroad company demonstrated “reckless and willfully indifferent conduct” when it failed to prevent the incident, which the filing says would not have occurred absent CSX’s numerous violations of federal safety and inspection regulations.
The suit relays that at approximately 2:30 p.m. on November 22, 2023, a wheel bearing failed on a 16-car train operated by CSX, causing it to derail from the tracks near Livingston, Kentucky. According to the case, several of the train cars contained dangerous and combustible chemicals, including molten sulfur, which ignited after the cars were breached. The resulting fire reportedly burned for almost 24 hours and released plumes of toxic sulfur dioxide into neighboring communities, the complaint describes.
Because of the hazardous sulfur dioxide emissions—which can cause eye, nose and throat irritation; breathing difficulties and serious damage to the respiratory system—Kentucky governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency and issued evacuation orders for nearby residents, just as many were making preparations for the Thanksgiving holiday, the filing shares.
The lawsuit charges that the train derailment and resulting “catastrophe” was “entirely preventable” had the defendant complied with federal regulations and industry standards. As the suit tells it, CSX failed to properly perform inspections to test for mechanical problems and had no adequate plan in place to prevent the derailment or subsequent chemical fire.
Per the case, the company reported that the incident occurred due to a faulty wheel bearing that failed to trigger one of the track’s hot bearing detectors (HBD), which alert crews to such malfunctions and should be placed trackside on average every 15 miles, according to industry best practices. The complaint contends that on the day of the derailment, the train had traveled more than 21 miles since passing an HBD and would not have reached the next one for another two miles.
“CSX knew or should have known that over 23 miles between hot bearing detectors, as was the case in Livingston, was unreasonable, negligent, reckless, and not in accordance with industry standards,” the complaint claims.
The filing argues that the train “should never have been operated in such a reckless manner” considering it carried extremely toxic and combustible substances.
As a result of CSX’s alleged failures, Kentucky residents like the plaintiffs—two individuals who live within a few miles of the derailment site—have been exposed to poisonous chemical smoke and now “fear for the long-term consequences to [their] health,” the case shares.
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone who resided or was present in the evacuation zone of the CSX train derailment in Rockcastle County, Kentucky, on November 22, 2023.
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