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Judge: $200M for Chatsworth crash not enough

July 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A judge on Thursday divided $200 million among victims of the disastrous 2008 collision of two trains but it may not be enough.

The Metrolink crash in Chatsworth in 2008 left 25 people dead and more than 100 injured.

Federal safety officials said the passenger train's engineer didn't stop at a red signal. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the engineer had been texting seconds before he drove through the signal.

A judge assigned to allocate the money awarded by the train companies gave $4.2 million to survivors of each adult killed and $1.2 million to each child who died.

But the judge says it doesn't leave much left over for the injured, many of whom have medical bills well over $1 million.

Under federal law, a $200 million liability cap is in place for damages involving passenger train accidents. Congress set the cap to keep train systems operating when faced with major lawsuits.

Veolia Environment, a company based in France, and Metrolink agreed to pay the $200 million award. Veolia's subsidiary employed the engineer cited by federal officials as responsible for the crash.

The total amount "is the largest financial recovery in the history of passenger rail and exceeds the amounts paid to victims of 9/11 and to victims of prior accidents at Metrolink before Veolia assumed train operations," Veolia said a statement Thursday.

On Monday, 17 members of California's congressional delegation sent a letter to Veolia's chairman urging the company to voluntarily provide additional compensation. The letter cited British Petroleum's actions in providing additional funding to victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil rig blowout despite a federal cap on damages.

The company was reviewing the request and was unable to immediately comment, spokeswoman Erica Swerdlow said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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