- The Washington Times - Friday, January 14, 2005

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The first lawsuits have been filed against Norfolk Southern in the wake of a Jan. 6 train wreck and chlorine gas spill that killed nine persons and injured about 250 others.

About 1,900 residents of the textile town of Graniteville, S.C., remained displaced yesterday, but some have forged ahead with lawsuits claiming negligence and nuisance.

“This tragedy was avoidable and the community should have been spared the profound grief of nine fatalities and massive personal losses,” attorney Lew Garrison said. “The thousands of citizens bearing this grief and loss should have their fair and prompt day in court.”

At least two lawsuits are seeking class-action status, which needs a judge’s approval. One lawsuit filed Thursday claims Norfolk Southern failed to properly train its employees, conduct a timely evacuation and inspect a switch on the track.

About 5,400 residents were evacuated after the crash, in which a train slammed into a parked train, puncturing a tanker of chlorine gas. A preliminary investigation determined the crew that parked a two-car train on a spur rail failed to switch the tracks back to the main rail.

Mr. Garrison said he did not know how much in damages would be sought.

Railroad spokeswoman Susan Terpay said Norfolk Southern does not talk about ongoing litigation; she said she didn’t know if the company had received the lawsuits.

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