By Rachel Fowler on November 15, 2023
Single Largest Individual Lawsuit Against Norfolk Southern Filed On November 14, 2023, Seeking Compensation For East Palestine Victims
According to the Federal Railway Administration, Norfolk Southern had the most derailments of all railroad companies in Ohio from 2019 through 2022, with 67 accidents total.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO, NOVEMBER 14 — Lawyers for Ohio businessman, Edwin Wang, today filed a $500 million, seven-count lawsuit against Norfolk Southern Railway Company, a Virginia corporation, to compensate him for damages his East Palestine, Ohio-based businesses suffered due to the February 3, 2023, Derailment of a train carrying hazardous waste.
The immediate and indisputable results of Norfolk Southern’s Derailment were that millions of pounds of toxic chemicals spread into the air, soil, and water for miles – including directly onto Wang’s properties.
Norfolk Southern’s actions and decisions – both before and after the derailment – compounded the damage, creating an “unmitigated disaster of unimaginable portions with terrible consequences” for Mr. Wang and other innocent victims, the Lawsuit claims.
In addition, the resulting fire and release of highly toxic chemicals into Mr. Wang’s businesses will continue to cause direct and substantial damage, he and others contend.
Wang, a naturalized U.S. citizen and American resident of over 30 years, says he lost nearly everything because the Derailment and toxic chemical spill made it dangerous for his skilled workers to return to work, forcing him to close or relocate his operations.
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In addition to the direct business and property damages, Mr. Wang contends that the Derailment and actions taken in its aftermath have also eroded the confidence of both existing and potential future customers. “There is a palpable taint on everything now related to East Palestine. It comes up in every sales call with every customer. Some customers do not want existing products from East Palestine because of a contamination risk. Others don’t want the headaches of placing future orders because of the fear that further remediation will be required that will prolong the companies’ operational hiatus, force future closures, or result in new facility remediation,” he says.
The Lawsuit states that Norfolk Southern was aware of the increased risks of a dangerous event occurring with Train 32N prior to its derailment but intentionally acted – and instructed others to act – in a manner that made the train’s operation unsafe.
Therefore, Norfolk Southern deviated from its clear duties to Wang and the general community, by purposely performing wrongful acts with knowledge and appreciation of the likelihood of resulting injury and acted in a way that was both grossly negligent and likely to cause harm.
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Further, Norfolk Southern has a history of hiring high-paid, influential lobbyists to thwart and/or prevent the implementation of safety measures – including Obama-era legislation – at the federal and state (OH-specific) levels that might interfere with the company’s plans to increase profits and cut its work force.
Wang’s attorneys stated that the corporate pressure for longer trains, going faster, with less crew, created a scenario where multiple safety issues occurred on Train 32N that were either undetected or ignored by Norfolk Southern employees prior to the Derailment.
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Norfolk Southern Railroad Company (NSRC) operates approximately 19,300 route miles (in 22 states and the District of Columbia) and serves every major container port in the eastern United States. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”), NSRC had the most derailments of all railroad companies in Ohio from 2019 through 2022, with 67 accidents total—22 in 2019, 18 in 2020, 15 in 2021, and 13 in 2022. According to Surface Transportation Board (STB) employment data, Norfolk Southern reduced its workforce by 39% from 2011 through 2021, with most of that reduction occurring between 2019 and 2021.
Jon C. Conlin, Principal, Cory Watson, P.C. said, “When you investigate the background of Norfolk Southern, the pressure executives applied to make faster, longer trains, run with smaller crews, and to repeatedly put juiced corporate profits over even basic public safety concerns, a disaster of this magnitude was only a matter of time. The full scope of this tragedy – on humans, animals, the community, and the environment – may not be fully known for years, but we know right now that Edwin Wang’s businesses will never fully recover. That is why we are seeking full, just, and complete compensation for all current and future damages suffered by his businesses.”
Conlin went on to say, “I commend Mr. Wang for this act of courage to fight for what is right, on behalf of his employees and others, particularly since he and so many others feel abandoned by those who are responsible for creating so much damage to individuals, families and businesses in East Palestine and the surrounding community.”
FEATURED MEDIA COVERAGE:
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For media only: To schedule a media interview with Mr. Wang and/or for a copy of the Lawsuit, a backgrounder on Norfolk Southern Railroad Company, and related materials, please contact Dana Dussing Berry at 5017726141.