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Rail News: Norfolk Southern Railway

NS moves to dismiss class action lawsuit over East Palestine derailment

Ten rail cars carrying hazmat were among the rail cars that derailed Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio.
Photo – National Transportation Safety Board


Norfolk Southern Railway has asked a U.S. judge to throw out a proposed class action lawsuit spurred by the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

NS officials told the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division that the suit filed on behalf of nearly 500,000 residents, businesses and property owners is based on “threadbare” claims and preempted by federal law, Reuters reported.

As a common carrier, NS is required under U.S. law to transport hazardous materials such as the vinyl chloride the train was carrying near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border when the derailment occurred. To avoid a potential explosion, NS conducted a controlled release of the toxic chemical from five rail cars. Twenty hazardous material cars were on the 141-car train; 10 of those hazmat cars derailed.

The plaintiffs claim the railroad is liable for the property damage, health concerns and business impacts the derailment caused. Claims of negligence, nuisance and strict liability are preempted by the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and the Federal Railroad Safety Act, NS officials claimed in the motion to dismiss.

“Norfolk Southern deeply regrets the impact this derailment has had on people and businesses in East Palestine and the surrounding area,” company officials wrote in the motion. “At the same time, Norfolk Southern must defend itself against unfounded accusations and legally deficient claims."

In March, the state of Ohio and the U.S. Department of Justice sued the railroad to ensure that it pays the full cost of cleanup and any long-term effects the derailment may have on the area. NS shareholders and Pennsylvania school districts located near the derailment site also have filed multiple lawsuits.