On Tuesday, a federal jury awarded a Seattle woman nearly $ 6.9 million in compensation for injuries she suffered as a passenger on an Amtrak Cascades 501 train that derailed at high speed near Dupont, Pierce County, in December 2017.
Kylie Steele, then 24, was pushed headfirst into the seat in front of her as a speeding train bound for Seattle to Portland jumped off the tracks at a bend, causing several vehicles to fall off the overpass onto Interstate 5. Three people were killed and 65 were injured.
The train was making its maiden voyage on the recently completed Point Defiance bypass. Amtrak resumed the route earlier this month.
A jury in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle deliberated just three hours after a five-day trial entirely at Zoom, before awarding Steele $ 6.875 million in compensation for past and future economic losses.
“She’s a wonderful young woman whose life was full of hope and changed forever,” said her Seattle lawyer James Vucinovic, who said Steele, now 28, was a graduate student at Antioch University when the accident happened. “She deserves it.”
A phone message left by lawyers representing Amtrak was not immediately returned on Tuesday.
In its court notes, Amtrak downplays the extent and severity of Steele’s injuries. The Passenger Train Service noted that Steele had no fractures and claimed she was “independent and capable of driving” and participates in outdoor activities such as running and kayaking. Amtrak disputes the fact that Steele continued to suffer from PTSD nearly four years after the accident.
Vucinovic said the testimony at trial showed that Steele was being monitored by Amtrak and provided a 12-minute video of her engaging in day-to-day activities. The video was filmed after 180 hours of surveillance, he said.
This is at least the third jury’s verdict that Amtrak, also known as National Railroad Passenger Corp., is liable for compensatory damages resulting from the crash. Amtrak claimed responsibility for the crash that occurred on December 18, 2017, when the train entered a corner at low speed at nearly 80 mph.
In September 2019, a jury awarded three passengers $ 17 million in compensation for crash injuries. Two months later, another federal jury ordered Amtrak to pay Maple Valley’s Madeleine Garza $ 4.5 million for future pain, suffering and possible disability due to a fractured pelvis. Several more claims are pending.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigated the crash, said in a final report released in 2019 that multiple failures contributed to the crash, but blamed Sound Transit in the first place, which it said hadn’t done enough. to reduce the risk of an accident. turn where the train derailed.
The maximum safe speed at which this curve was to be taken was 30 mph, and there was only one sign warning the engineer to slow down. Investigators determined that the Amtrak Cascades was traveling at 79 mph when it arrived at the bend.
A device known as Positive Train Control, which would alert the driver and automatically slow down the train, was not installed on the locomotive. Investigation revealed that the engineer did not apply the emergency brakes.
The NTSB also found that the engineer was not sufficiently familiar with the new route – the new $ 181 million Sound Transit corridor designed to expedite service between the two largest cities in the Pacific Northwest – and was not properly trained in the new equipment installed on locomotive. …