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Amtrak Begins Settling Philadelphia Derailment Lawsuits, But Keeps Details Secret

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a deadly train derailment in Philadelphia, which happened on May 12, 2015.
Patrick Semansky
Emergency personnel work at the scene of a deadly train derailment in Philadelphia, which happened on May 12, 2015.

Amtrak has started settling lawsuits filed in the wake of a deadly derailment in Philadelphia in May 2015, but the details of those agreements are being kept secret.

Eight people were killed and more than 200 others were injured when Amtrak Train 188 derailed after leaving the main Philadelphia station headed for New York.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the likely cause of the accident was a distracted engineer. Investigators found that engineer Brandon Bostian was paying attention to radio chatter about a nearby train that had been hit by a rock. After passing by that stopped train, according to the NTSB report, Bostian made the mistake of accelerating into a curve instead of slowing down. That caused the train to derail.

Dozens of lawsuits were filed after the accident and Amtrak has acknowledged liability, as WHYY's Bobby Allyn reported in February.

Among the first lawsuits to be settled was one filed by Jessica Baen of New York. Her attorney, Adam Barrist, told NPR that Baen is satisfied with the settlement she received. But he says under the agreement he can't say much more than that. He says the confidentiality provision is strict so he's not allowed to answer any questions, such as how much Amtrak paid to settle the case with his client.

Congress passed legislation last December that raises the cap on damages Amtrak could be forced to pay to $295 million from $200 million, The Hill reported. While Amtrak gets part of its funding from state and federal governments it is run as a for-profit, federally chartered corporation.

In an emailed statement, Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert wrote, "Amtrak does not discuss active litigation."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.