Metrolink crash should spark reform of damages cap
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Nearly two years ago a Metrolink engineer was busy texting when his commuter train hurtled through a red stop light and into the path of an oncoming freight train, killing the engineer and 24 others, and injuring 135 people — the worst crash in Metrolink’s history.
Under the federal Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997, the most Metrolink and Connex Railroad, which had been contracted to operate Metrolink’s trains, can be liable for in damages from that incident is $200 million — which, in fact, the two entities told a judge Wednesday they are willing to pay to settle the outstanding claims.
That comes out to an average of $1.3 million per victim, before legal fees. A paltry sum given the apparent gross negligence of the engineer, and the medical bills and other damages incurred by those who lost family members, or who were injured themselves.
The proposed settlement in the Metrolink crash could lead to a court challenge over the liability cap, which would be good, Better, though, would be for lawmakers to follow up on their previous criticisms and remove the limit. As we’re seeing in the Gulf oil disaster, such limits only benefit the guilty.