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BNSF trying to force arbitration for Mendon, Missouri Amtrak crash victims



The railroad company that owns the track where a deadly Amtrak derailment took place in June near Mendon, Missouri has filed a request to force arbitration for victims of the crash and to stop any lawsuits from moving forward in state court.It’s a move that could allow the company to avoid potential civil payouts from jury verdicts. The move could also stop certain public testimony about the crash and derailment from coming out in open court.BNSF Railway Company, in a federal court document obtained by KMBC 9 Investigates, argues multiple Amtrak victims and family members are required to go to arbitration due to terms and conditions when passengers bought a ticket on the Amtrak Southwest Chief traveling to Los Angeles to Chicago. The railway’s attorneys on Wednesday asked Chariton County Circuit Court Judge Terry Tschannen to delay any outcome in a state civil lawsuit filed by victims until a ruling in federal court has decided on the arbitration issue.Tschannen said he would rule on any possible delay within the next 30 days after hearing from attorneys for the victims’ families.Wednesday’s hearing at the Chariton County courthouse came nearly three months after four people died after the derailment, including three passengers on the train and a dump truck driver. The truck straddled the tracks as the train ran into it on June 27. Multiple people suffered life-changing injuries after the crash.BNSF’s attorneys argued in a court pleading the railway filed the federal complaint to force victims into arbitration, as required by the Federal Arbitration Act.”That’s a big dispute,” said Grant Davis, who was appointed as a lead attorney for a plaintiff’s committee working to consolidate pre-trial matters, including discovery and witness interviews. Davis argued before the court that passengers did not agree to any sort of arbitration with BNSF, even if the terms and conditions listed “host railroads” as an arbitration party.”Are you saying that the consumer would know what that meant buried in all that language?” Davis argued before the judge.The court also heard arguments from attorneys for the dump truck company owner, MS Contracting, with the company’s request to force Amtrak to become a party in certain civil lawsuits filed by victims’ families.MS Contracting’s attorneys argued a jury should decide how much fault Amtrak had in the crash, instead of solely deciding on MS Contracting’s level of fault in any potential trials.Meanwhile, an attorney for Amtrak workers told the judge he would like to set a trial date for cases filed on behalf of his clients to make sure his clients are paid.Attorney Will Moody, of Portsmouth Va., said one of his clients lost his arm during the derailment, and had another arm mangled.”He was trapped like that for two hours,” Moody told KMBC 9 Investigates after the hearing. “He was just one of many that had been involved in this accident that had been very, very seriously hurt.”Moody said his railroad worker clients deserve compensation since they are not protected by Missouri workers compensation laws.”They’re out of work. They have no pay. And right now they’re at home trying to recover seeing their doctors being treated, but they do not have any income,” he said.KMBC 9 Investigates will continue to follow the civil cases as they move through both state and federal court along with the arbitration issue. If you have any tips about the cases or derailment, email investigates@kmbc.com.

The railroad company that owns the track where a deadly Amtrak derailment took place in June near Mendon, Missouri has filed a request to force arbitration for victims of the crash and to stop any lawsuits from moving forward in state court.

It’s a move that could allow the company to avoid potential civil payouts from jury verdicts. The move could also stop certain public testimony about the crash and derailment from coming out in open court.

BNSF Railway Company, in a federal court document obtained by KMBC 9 Investigates, argues multiple Amtrak victims and family members are required to go to arbitration due to terms and conditions when passengers bought a ticket on the Amtrak Southwest Chief traveling to Los Angeles to Chicago.

The railway’s attorneys on Wednesday asked Chariton County Circuit Court Judge Terry Tschannen to delay any outcome in a state civil lawsuit filed by victims until a ruling in federal court has decided on the arbitration issue.

Tschannen said he would rule on any possible delay within the next 30 days after hearing from attorneys for the victims’ families.

Wednesday’s hearing at the Chariton County courthouse came nearly three months after four people died after the derailment, including three passengers on the train and a dump truck driver. The truck straddled the tracks as the train ran into it on June 27. Multiple people suffered life-changing injuries after the crash.

BNSF’s attorneys argued in a court pleading the railway filed the federal complaint to force victims into arbitration, as required by the Federal Arbitration Act.

“That’s a big dispute,” said Grant Davis, who was appointed as a lead attorney for a plaintiff’s committee working to consolidate pre-trial matters, including discovery and witness interviews.

Davis argued before the court that passengers did not agree to any sort of arbitration with BNSF, even if the terms and conditions listed “host railroads” as an arbitration party.

“Are you saying that the consumer would know what that meant buried in all that language?” Davis argued before the judge.

The court also heard arguments from attorneys for the dump truck company owner, MS Contracting, with the company’s request to force Amtrak to become a party in certain civil lawsuits filed by victims’ families.

MS Contracting’s attorneys argued a jury should decide how much fault Amtrak had in the crash, instead of solely deciding on MS Contracting’s level of fault in any potential trials.

Meanwhile, an attorney for Amtrak workers told the judge he would like to set a trial date for cases filed on behalf of his clients to make sure his clients are paid.

Attorney Will Moody, of Portsmouth Va., said one of his clients lost his arm during the derailment, and had another arm mangled.

“He was trapped like that for two hours,” Moody told KMBC 9 Investigates after the hearing. “He was just one of many that had been involved in this accident that had been very, very seriously hurt.”

Moody said his railroad worker clients deserve compensation since they are not protected by Missouri workers compensation laws.

“They’re out of work. They have no pay. And right now they’re at home trying to recover seeing their doctors being treated, but they do not have any income,” he said.

KMBC 9 Investigates will continue to follow the civil cases as they move through both state and federal court along with the arbitration issue. If you have any tips about the cases or derailment, email investigates@kmbc.com.



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