EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — A lawsuit has now been filed against Norfolk Southern Railway as plaintiffs in the case seek damages connected to the East Palestine train derailment in Columbiana County.
The lawsuit says the derailment “was caused by the negligence of defendants in the operation of the subject train, in NSR’s track system and / or defects in one or more of the cars.”
Plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit include two residents, Susan and David Scheufele, and one business owner, Harold Feezle, who each claim to have suffered damages as a result of the incident in which officials issued an evacuation order for those within a one-to-two mile radius of the derailment site.
One of the residential plaintiffs also alleges “injuries as a direct and proximate result of his exposure to the toxic chemicals and fumes emanating from the accident site.”
On Monday afternoon, officials conducted a controlled release of chemicals after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine noted the contents of five rail cars were "currently unstable and could potentially explode, causing deadly disbursement of shrapnel and toxic fumes."
By Monday evening, Scott Deutsch of the Norfolk Southern Railway said they were "very pleased" with the result.
"The detonation went perfect and we're already to a point where the cars are safe," Deutsch said. "They were not safe prior to this (controlled release)."
You can watch the moment the controlled release began in the video below:
During a briefing on Wednesday, officials removed the evacuation order that had been in place for residents in and around East Palestine since Sunday. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine made the announcement Wednesday in conjunction with the East Palestine Fire Department and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Officials had been conducting tests throughout the area and were awaiting more results before lifting the evacuation order. According to the governor's office, those tests revealed "readings at points below safety screening levels for contaminants of concern."
"All the readings we've been recording in the community have been normal concentrations, normal background, what you would find in almost any community operating outside," James Justice with the U.S. EPA told reporters.
In addition, the Ohio EPA has been examining the water quality in the village. While chemicals did indeed enter the waterways, "actions were taken to minimize that," according to environmental response specialist Kurt Kollar.
"All the information and data, to date, [show those actions have] still been protective of drinking water," Kollar said, noting that the immediate side effects were toxic to fish, however. "We are working closely with our partners to make sure that is maintained."
Residents with questions about hotel assistance, water testing, or air sampling should call Norfolk Southern's Family Assistance Center at 800-230-7049.
“In carryout of such conduct, Defendants acted in violation of law and in conscious disregard for the rights and safety of other persons that had a great probability of causing substantial harm,” the lawsuit declares. “Therefore, Defendants are liable for exemplary and punitive damages.”
The lawsuit also requests the following (as written in the suit):
- An order barring Defendants from removing any property from the derailment Site which will be useful to the Representative Plaintiffs or their experts in determining the cause of the derailment and chemical spill;
- An order barring Defendants from destroying or removing any computer or similar records which recorded events regarding the train that derailed for the seventy-two (72) hour period immediately preceding the February 3, 2023, incident
- An order barring Defendants from attempting, on its own or through its agents, to induce any Putative Class member to sign any document which in any way releases any of the claims of any Putative Class member
- An order directing Defendants to abate the nuisance and the risks from the releases of toxic substances, toxic fumes, and carcinogens, and such other orders as may be necessary or appropriate directing Defendants to take all reasonable and sufficient steps to correct the potentially hazardous conditions now existing