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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Amtrak's mandatory arbitration policy would end under new legislation


Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress yesterday introduced the "Ending Passenger Rail Forced Arbitration Act," which would end Amtrak's practice of forced arbitration agreements with passengers.

In January 2019, Amtrak revised a requirement that legal action against the railroad be resolved through a mandatory arbitration process. Under the change, riders waive their right to sue the national intercity passenger railroad in a U.S. court for any reason with the purchase of an Amtrak ticket.

Amtrak added the policy after two high-profile fatal derailments — one in Philadelphia in 2015 and the other in DuPont, Washington, in 2017 — that resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements for the victims, The Washington Post reported.

The legislation is among several efforts to pressure Amtrak to restore the legal rights of passengers and their families to bring any disputes agains the railroad before a judge and jury. In January, the nonprofit Public Citizen filed a lawsuit to have the clause removed from Amtrak's ticketing terms and conditions, the newspaper reported.

Reps. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) and Denny Heck (D-Wash.) introduced the bill in the House.

"Requiring forced arbitration agreements limits consumer rights and protections,” said Lamb in a press release. "Amtrak should not preclude their customers from exercising their full rights through a forced arbitration policy."

The Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and is sponsored by 11 other Democrats.

"Riders unwittingly sign away vital legal rights with the purchase of a ticket. If the worst happens, they are left without legal recourse. This is unacceptable. We must restore consumers' access to justice and public accountability," Blumenthal said in a statement.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/6/2020