(Simi Valley, California – July 27, 2012)
Seeking support for legislation which would more appropriately compensate victims and survivors of the 2008 Metrolink commuter passenger train collision with a Union Pacific freight train that killed 25 and injured more than 130, at least 20 representatives met Friday in Simi Valley, CA with Molly O’Brien, field representative for Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), who had sponsored bi-partisan legislation to increase a damage cap of $200 million to $500 million that never got out of committee.
Locomotive Engineer Robert Sanchez, an employee of Metrolink subcontractor Connex Railroad LLC, a subsidiary of French-headquartered Veolia, was texting on a cell phone when his passenger train ran red signals and collided with the standing UPRR freight train. Connex and Veolia supplied railroad operating personnel for Metrolink under contract.
Federal law, designed to prevent the bankrupting of passenger carriers like Amtrak (and Metrolink) through catastrophic accident litigation, capped total compensation at $200 million for any single event.
Thus far, 130 awards, ranging from $12,000 to $9 million, have been paid to the victims and their families as Veolia paid $54 million of the $200 million, the rest coming from insurance companies and Metrolink.
The bill co-sponsored by Feinstein and U.S. Representative Elton Gallegly (R-CA) of Simi Valley, CA, would have increased the cap to $500 million and would have been retroactive to cover the September 12, 2008 tragedy.
The assembled victims and their families made it clear to O’Brien that they deserved better treatment from both Veolia and the government than they had received. Jeanette Noble of Camarillo, CA, whose father, Dennis Arnold, died in the horrific accident, said “There’s a lot of frustrated people. Many others did not show up today because they’ve given up, they’re numb, they’re frustrated with the system, and have lost faith in the people that are supposed to protect us from corporate greed and criminal negligence.”
“I hope this meeting is not another dog and pony show just to appease the people who are upset,” she added.