September 19, 2008

Lawyers for Metrolink Crash Victims Intend to Challenge Limit on Damages

The Associated Press has an article today entitled "Damages Limit A Concern in the Wake of Train Crash" (via the LA Daily News). The article includes quotes from Brian Panish, a plaintiff's attorney who is representing two of the crash victims in last week's head-on collision between a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train in Los Angeles. (The article mistakenly refers to Panish as a defense attorney.) Panish intends to challenge the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997, which places a $200 million limit on damages payouts in rail accident cases. The limit includes compensatory and punitive damages.

Of course, that's assuming that punitive damages would even be available in such a case. In litigation over the 2002 crash between a Metrolink commuter train and a Burlington Northern freight train in Placentia, the superior court ruled the plaintiffs' punitive damages claim was preempted by federal law. (Full disclosure: Horvitz & Levy consulted on the motion for summary adjudication that knocked out the punitive damages claim in the Placentia litigation. Panish's firm represented some of the plaintiffs.)