CSX lawsuit may be resolved

Other federal lawsuits remain active

The federal judge presiding over three lawsuits arising from a derailment of a CSX Trans­portation train in August 2017 has noted that one of the lawsuits might have been settled.

Judge Kim R. Gibson in an order issued this month stated that a lawsuit filed in April by the resident of and the owner of a home along the tracks in Hyndman that was damaged when several rail cars landed in the structure’s backyard “has resolved.”

The home at 306 Schellsburg St. was occupied by Charles J. Miller during the early morning of Aug. 2, 2017, when the derailment occurred.

According to the lawsuit filed by Bedford County attorney Girard E. Rickards, Miller had lived in the home for 53 years.

About 4:54 a.m. on that August day, Miller was in his living room when suddenly several of the derailed cars of a 178-car CSX train crashed into his yard and garage, “exploding and making loud booming noises,” the lawsuit stated.

The home’s owner, Janet Ritchey of O’Fallon, Ill., who is Miller’s daughter, contended the property received more than $72,000 in damage.

Miller himself claimed emotional distress and medical expenses as a result of the derailment.

While the federal record in the case stated a resolution has been reached, Miller, when contacted Wednesday, said he has not yet been informed about the settlement.

He now lives in a different location in the borough and said he believes the Schellsburg Street home will eventually be torn down.

The lawsuit alleged the train, carrying more than 18 tons in freight and more than two miles in length, had a faulty brake system and yet was continuing its way from Chicago to New York.

Thirty-two of the cars derailed, and a subsequent fire led to the evacuation of many residents of Hyndman.

CSX, in its answer to the lawsuit, denied it was negligent and careless in the operation of the train.

Rickards was not available Wednesday to discuss the resolution of the case, his office reporting he is involved in an traffic accident case being tried this week in the U.S. District Court in Johnstown.

Gibson’s order instructs the attorneys for both sides to notify the court when the settlement is consummated.

Two other federal lawsuits resulting from the derailment remain active.

CSX and attorneys for Robert Scaife, his wife, Diane, and Robert Scaife III are in a battle to decide the venue where that lawsuit will be tried.

The Scaifes through Indiana County attorneys Bryan Neiderhiser and Russell Bopp initially filed the lawsuit in the Bedford County Court of Common Pleas.

CSX removed the case to federal court, noting that CSX is a railroad with headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla.

The attorneys for the Scaifes have asked Gibson to return the case to Bedford County.

CSX argues the case belongs in the federal court because damages at issue most likely will exceed $75,000, but the plaintiffs’ attorneys claim they are requesting damages within the $25,000 arbitration limit established for hearing in the Bedford Court of Common Pleas.

The Scaifes are seeking damages stemming from the inhalation of fumes from the explosion and fire of hazardous materials that spilled from the derailed cars.

Gibson is also faced with a controversy from a third lawsuit filed by Neiderhiser on behalf of the residents of Hyndman who were forced from their homes for several days as a result of the derailment.

He has brought a class-action lawsuit led by resident Denora Diehl.

That lawsuit outlines the suffering that many residents endured as they were forced from their homes.

The evacuation zone included a population of 2,788 residents, 835 families and 1,167 households, the lawsuit reported.

CSX is opposing court approval of the class action, contending it has already reimbursed residents for their inconvenience.

The railroad claims also that the potential “class” to be represented in the lawsuit is too large.

In response, the lawyers seeking the formation of a class point out they have limited the number of people to be included, excluding anybody who did not evacuate and those who are seeking personal injury damages.

CSX also seeks to bar reimbursement for mental anguish caused by the derailment.

However, the plaintiffs have responded that each member of the class should have the benefit of a psychiatric assessment.

The plaintiffs also described CSX’s payout to evacuees as a “paltry sum” that failed to address the effects of the derailment on each individual.