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Gadsden, Alabama

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Jason Knowles
Jason Knowles
Attorney •

TRAIN DERAILMENTS WREAK HAVOC

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With so much technology today in our fast-paced world, when I think of trains I think of dinosaurs. We almost forget about the massive machines as they roll through our cities and towns. That is, until you hear about a tragedy, such as the one in Albertville, Alabama recently where a train derailed, killing the conductor. According to an article in The Gadsden Times, dated June 25, 2009, the conductor on a 75-car Alabama-Tennessee River Railroad train was crushed between a tanker and a pile of scrap metal when the train slid off the tracks while dropping tankers at Progress Rail, near Albertville.

I am reminded of the interesting case arising out of North Dakota, where residents of a small North Dakota town have tried to sue Canadian Pacific Railway over a 2002 derailment that sent a cloud of toxic anhydrous ammonia from farm fertilizer over the town. One man died trying to escape the fumes and others were treated at hospitals for eye and lung injuries. The U. S. Supreme Court has recently refused to block the lawsuit. In 2006, a U. S. district judge ruled that federal law protected Canadian Pacific from claims stemming from the derailment. After Congress changed the law the same year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled that the claims could proceed.

Train derailment tragedies such as these remind us of the dangers of trains and of the need for greater safety measures in the industry.