Canadian Pacific Railway’s attempt to block a lawsuit was denied by the Supreme Court. Residents of Minot, ND are filing the lawsuit against CP, whose train derailed in 2002 and released toxic anhydrous ammonia farm fertilizer into the air over the city. The toxic fumes killed one local man and caused damage to several other residents.
In 2006, a U.S district judge ruled that federal law protected CP from any claims that might arise from the derailment. However, the federal law changed the same year. Now, the Supreme Court has denied that CP is protected.
This is good news for several reasons. Laws that protect railroad companies should not cross reasonable bounds. If derailments were unavoidable, then perhaps railroad companies would not be held at fault. However, proper implementation of safety technology can prevent most derailments that occur. If the railroad truly was not at fault, then it makes sense to let them off of the hook. This should be the decision of a jury who has been given the evidence, however, and not preemptive federal laws which protect the railroad before a case can even be made. Train derailments which spill toxic materials are incredibly deadly, and railroads should be held responsible for any negligence and any failure to prevent these deadly occurrences.