Third suit filed in Paulsboro derailment

Tanker cars that derailed Nov. 30, tainting the atmosphere and Mantua Creek.
Tanker cars that derailed Nov. 30, tainting the atmosphere and Mantua Creek. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 10, 2013

Fifty-two Paulsboro residents filed a lawsuit against Conrail and its parent companies Tuesday, seeking compensation, punitive damages, and medical surveillance after a train derailment Nov. 30 released thousands of gallons of toxic vinyl chloride into the atmosphere.

The suit is the third of its kind since the incident. Two others were filed last month, also citing Conrail, CSX Corp., and Norfolk Southern Corp.

Of the seven cars that derailed, four fell into Mantua Creek and one breached, causing the leak of the hazardous chemical and forcing nearly 700 residents from their homes.

The plaintiffs, according to the suit, have suffered from chest pains and coughing fits as a result of their exposure to the chemical, and fear they may contract serious illnesses.

"We'll respond to the lawsuit in a timely fashion and in the appropriate forum, through our legal filings," Conrail spokesman Michael Hotra said.

The new civil complaint was filed in Superior Court in Gloucester County by the Lieberman & Blecher firm of Princeton. Additional plaintiffs are likely to join the suit, said attorney Stuart Lieberman.

The suit also includes as unnamed defendants the engineer of the train and a dispatcher in Mount Laurel.

It alleges that the train crossed over the bridge even though a red light signaled for it to stop. The engineer operating the train inspected the bridge and contacted a dispatcher in Mount Laurel, who concluded it was safe to proceed.

The decision was negligent, the suit claims, particularly because the bridge "had been repeatedly malfunctioning for at least one year" before to the derailment. The complaint alleges that Conrail "put safety aside for the sake of profit."

The suit also alleges that untrained emergency responders wrongly allowed nearby residents to "proceed through the toxic cloud" created by the vinyl chloride.

The suit, Lieberman said, represents residents who were evacuated and others who were not.


Contact Andrew Seidman

at 856-779-3846 or aseidman@phillynews.com,

or follow on Twitter @AndrewSeidman.

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