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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Jury awards $4.5 million to woman injured in ‘Cascades’ wreck NEWSWIRE

Jury awards $4.5 million to woman injured in ‘Cascades’ wreck NEWSWIRE

By Justin Franz | November 14, 2019

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A passenger on Amtrak Cascades train No. 501 has been awarded $4.5 million from a jury after being injured in the 2017 wreck.
Steve Carter
TACOMA, Wash. — A jury in Washington has awarded a woman $4.5 million nearly two years after she was injured in the derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train as it made its inaugural run on a new rail bypass.

Maddie Garza was 18 years old in December 2017 when she was riding Amtrak train No. 501 between Seattle and Portland, Ore., when it derailed on a bridge at DuPont, Wash. The lead locomotive and number of cars fell off the bridge and onto Interstate 5. The car Garza was riding ended up upside down in the middle of the highway. Garza fractured her spine and broke her pelvis in the wreck.

Three people were killed and dozens were injured in the wreck.

Amtrak train No. 501 was making its inaugural run on the Point Defiance Bypass south of Tacoma. The route took Amtrak trains further inland, away from the slow, curvy line along Puget Sound, in an effort to speed up the trip between Seattle and Portland. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found that the train was traveling at 78 miles per hour when it entered a 30-mile-per-hour curve over Interstate 5. [See “National Transportation Safety Board says multiple state and federal agencies failed in 2017 Washington state crash,” Trains News Wire, May 21, 2019.]

At the time, positive train control was not in use on the line and Amtrak vowed not to resume service on the bypass until the installation was completed. While PTC is now in use on the Point Defiance Bypass, Amtrak trains still use the line along Puget Sound.

The NTSB investigation and subsequent lawsuits have called into question the training crews received prior to service starting on the Point Defiance Bypass. According to investigators and media reports, locomotive engineers on the route had few familiarization runs on the bypass and that possibly contributed to the incident. Attorneys for Garza called Amtrak’s move to begin service without properly training its crews “outrageous and reckless.”

Garza filed a lawsuit against Amtrak in early 2018 alleging the railroad was negligent in its operation of train No. 501 and had violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act. Garza is not the first victim in the 2017 wreck to be awarded a settlement by a jury. In September, a jury ordered Amtrak to pay three other passengers $17 million. [See “Jury awards millions of dollars to passengers injured in 2017 Cascades wreck,” Trains News Wire, Sept. 16, 2019.]

In a statement to the media after the verdict, Garza said, “I am so grateful for the jury’s powerful decision today. This is not just about justice for myself, but to also send a clear message to Amtrak about changing their practices. I hope that this compels Amtrak to improve safety measures on their trains so that accidents like the one I lived through don’t happen ever again.”

9 thoughts on “Jury awards $4.5 million to woman injured in ‘Cascades’ wreck NEWSWIRE

  1. This is the exact reason why public transportation, not private, needs to have a cap instituted for payments from accidents…actually all Government agencies should be under an umbrella cap of…I’ll be generous here and go for $1 million, though I think $250K is sufficient since it’s the U.S. taxpayer that ends up paying out in these case in the first place.

    As for the rest of civil suits or class action suits, this isn’t the place to comment, but if it involves a railroad(or any business), there needs to be a cap…no discussion or dissent allowed, it must happen sooner rather than later or it will bankrupt this country.

  2. Why should there be a hard cap. If if there is negligence and the victim is going to have ongoing costs that are in the millions why shouldn’t the guilty party either public or private pay for it. Now if your talking punitive damages I could see limiting payments in the case of lawsuits against the government.

  3. It is a hard fact of life that the only real tool we have for compensation and redress of injury in these cases is monetary. Ms. Garza faces a lifetime of pain and limited mobility and there is no real way to truly provide redress. I wish her all the best.

    The above comments are genetic in nature and do not form the basis for an attorney/client relationship. They do not constitute legal advice. I am not your attorney. Jesus saves, why don’t you? Second National Bank.

  4. If you are injured in a car/truck accident you are out of luck, or if you die your survivors. But the jack pot is to be sure it involves a very large company or any level of government. Some sort of moderately generous equivalent of L&I both for medical/care coverage and lost income for everyone is in order.

  5. Unfortunately we the taxpayers are the ones who get to pick up the tab for this wreck. Ms Garza and the other injured will have the pain of th e wreck for some time.

  6. The only cap, GERALD, should be on punitive damages. Medical, pain and suffering, and incidentals such as loss of income, loss of companionship, should be to the amount of the damage.

    I am reminded of a long-ago case from Georgia where a college professor was awarded $12 million because she was insulted. Yet in this case someone who may be maimed and in horrible pain for the rest of her life, and perhaps unable to provide for dependents, gets $4.5 million.

  7. As for this accident, there was plenty of blame to go around, not just Amtrak. Expedience to get the service going got way, way ahead of their meager safety culture.

    We hear about the payouts, I want to hear who got fired.

    Any employee (or group of) of a company who caused loss of life or a large loss of money would be terminated in any other business.

  8. The comments have raised an interesting point: what should the redress be for actual losses and injury and what is appropriate for punishment. This issue is confused by questions of the size, physical and financial, and type of entity deemed responsible. What would be necessary to fairly compensate an 18 year old for pain and suffering, lifetime medical expenses due to the injuries, and impaired lifetime earnings? What is fair for a 66 year old that is working and making $150k/year? What penalty is appropriate for gross negligence? Should a financial award go to the plaintiff, the state, or some other entity? Is anyone being unfairly enriched by the proceedings?

  9. I agree with John Rice, who got punished here? As a retired locomotive engineer, it is clear that the engineer is totally at fault. When your operating, you have the route chart handy listing all the track speeds and speed restrictions. Your daily bulletins also lists any new restrictions. If you are not totally familiar with the route, it is not difficult to feel your way along by noting each milepost.
    All that has been written to declare that any engineer hasn’t any excuse for speeding. But since the engineer doesn’t have 4 million dollars, we must pay. Was the engineer terminated?
    Probably not, but if he was, then he is suing for wrongful termination.

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