Two men who suffered injuries after getting burned in flash fires during a derailed-train cleanup in Kentucky have settled their lawsuit for $18.5 million.
Plaintiffs Leonard Carrillo and Gregory Powers, both of Belleville, sued Arizona-based Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health LLC and several other parties involved in the derailment cleanup in Louisville, Ky., federal court in 2013.
They alleged the defendants failed to adequately monitor the atmosphere for dangerous or explosive chemicals before they were instructed to use a cutting torch near the train cars.
Railroad owner Paducah & Louisville Railway Inc. contracted with Carrillo and Powers’ employer RJ Corman Derailment Services of Nicholasville, Ky., to move the train cars when a locomotive derailed near West Point, Ky., in October 2012. At least one of the train’s derailed cars contained butadiene — an industrial chemical used in synthetic rubber production — which began to leak after the derailment.
The railway company also had an existing contract with CSX Transportation Inc. that called for CSX to send workers to potentially handle any hazardous materials that could have spilled in any given train incident, said Colin H. Dunn, a partner at Clifford Law Offices who represented the plaintiffs.
Pursuant to that contract, he said, employees from Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health were hired to monitor the surrounding air and ground conditions for any chemicals that had spilled in the derailment.
Carrillo and Powers were trying to pull apart two connected train cars — one of which was carrying the leaking butadiene — but were instructed by Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health personnel to use an acetylene cutting torch to complete the task when it was taking too long to do it by hand, Dunn said.
“Before that happened, someone from CTEH [Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health] went in to monitor the area and gave the thumbs up. Then, our clients went and performed their duties,” he said. “Within seconds, there were at least two if not more flash fires and these guys were completely engulfed in fire.”
Dunn said Carrillo, 38, suffered second- and third-degree burns to 80 percent of his body as well as a shoulder injury that affects his ability to perform his normal job duties. Powers, 28, suffered similar burns to 50 percent of his body as well as nerve damage and neuropathy in his hands, he said.
Both remain employed with RJ Corman, Dunn said, but neither perform the same duties as they did before the incident.
“They have restrictions by their doctors,” he said. “As I understand it, they’re basically cleaning the shop and moving machinery from one place to another, but they’re not doing the wrecking work they’d done before.”
The plaintiffs’ lawsuit named CSX, Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health, Paducah & Louisville Railway, P&L Transportation Inc., Four Rivers Transportation Inc. and RAE Systems Inc.
In denying their allegations, Dunn said, the railroad defendants contended Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health was liable for the incident because they were in charge of monitoring the area. They contended Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health’s employees were improperly trained to handle an incident such as the one at issue, he said.
But Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health contended CSX was liable because requirements such as laying dirt on the ground and patching the leak before conducting the necessary work had not been completed before any wrecking work could begin.
The defendants also contended RJ Corman failed to provide the proper anti-flame equipment to its employees, he said.
The parties mediated the case several times both in Kentucky and most recently before former Cook County chief circuit judge Donald P. O’Connell. The case settled Dec. 12 about two weeks after their mediation with O’Connell, he said.
“They’re happy that they can now start to put this behind them,” Dunn said.
Dunn said all defendants contributed to the settlement — which will split evenly between Carrillo and Powers — in confidential amounts. However, Louisville attorney John L. Tate, who represented RAE Systems, said his client “was exonerated from plaintiffs’ claims of negligence and did not contribute in any way to the settlement.”
CSX was represented by Edward H. Stopher and Rod D. Payne of Boehl Stopher & Graves LLP in Louisville and Thomas H. Dupree Jr. and Michael K. Murphy of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Washington D.C. Murphy deferred comment to Payne, who could not be reached for comment.
Samuel D. Hinkle IV, Douglas C. Ballantine and Christopher E. Schaefer of Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC in Louisville represented Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health. Schaefer deferred comment to Ballantine, who also could not be reached.
Paducah & Louisville Railway Inc., P&L Transportation and Four Rivers Transportation were represented by Jonathan Freed and L. Miller Grumley of Bradley, Freed & Grumley PSC in Paducah. Ky. Neither attorney could be reached for comment.
The plaintiffs were also represented by Clifford Law partner Robert A. Clifford, Belleville-based Brad L. Badgley P.C. principal Brad L. Badgley and Tad Thomas of Thomas Law Offices in Louisville.
The federal case is Leonard Anthony Carrillo, et al., v. CSX Transportation Inc., et al., 13 CI 5306.