Norfolk Southern Railway seeks to dismiss a mass class action lawsuit against it following the catastrophic train derailment that occurred in East Palestine, Ohio earlier this year.

The class action lawsuit, filed in federal court in Youngstown, is a collection of 31 separate lawsuits that residents and businesses from East Palestine and the surrounding areas brought against the railroad corporation. Earlier this year U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson ordered that all 31 cases be consolidated to streamline proceedings.

The lawsuit seeks damages from Norfolk Southern for negligence, state law violations, crop destruction, and medical monitoring among other things.

In its request to have the group of lawsuits dismissed, the railway giant reportedly claims that they are not at fault for the East Palestine catastrophe as the first car involved in the February 3rd derailment did not belong to them and it did not build the wheel bearing that the National Transportation Safety Board reports overheated a few moments before the derailment.

“The first car to derail did not belong to Norfolk Southern. Nor did Norfolk Southern construct the wheel bearing that allegedly ‘overheated’ and ‘caused the train to derail,” the motion states.

The request purportedly notes that the railway giant was required by federal law to transport the vinyl chloride, a toxic chemical, which Norfolk Southern carried out a controlled discharge of in the village to allegedly avert an explosion of the derailed train cars.

Norfolk Southern also reportedly argues that the claims against them are based on claimed actions taken by the rail company in a highly regulated setting and that they “unreasonably burden railroad transportation.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has already ordered Norfolk Southern to pay for specific remediation, housing, and costs, but this class action covers a wider range of affected people, increasing damages, and dictates additional safety and compliance for the rail operator going forward.

The cases do not include actions brought against the railroad firm by the Ohio attorney general’s office and the US Department of Justice in response to a series of Norfolk Southern derailments around the nation. They will proceed through the legal system individually.

Norfolk Southern is also facing a special investigation launched by the National Transportation Safety Board that it said will look into the company’s organization and safety.

On February 3rd, 50 train carriages, 10 of which were carrying hazardous materials, derailed as a result of a technical problem with a rail car axle, according to federal authorities. There was vinyl chloride in five of the vehicles. Hundreds of residents evacuated as a result of the controlled release of poisonous gasses that Norfolk Southern carried out on February 6th to stop an explosion.

Officials told East Palestine residents on February 8th that they could safely go home, despite the reports of hundreds of dead fish in the Ohio River near East Palestine and residents complaining of headaches and illness since the derailment.

Despite assurances from government officials that they are safe, many members of the community said they are fearful and nervous about their exposure to the chemicals and said they are concerned about the quality of the air and drinking water. Some residents chose to live in hotels until officials can convince them that their homes are safe.

An update from Norfolk Southern says that they continue to excavate the north track area. Crews have sampled the ‘centerline’ area between the north and south tracks and are awaiting results to determine if they need to further excavate.

According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Norfolk Southern has hauled approximately 19.3 million gallons of liquid wastewater out of East Palestine in total. There is currently a pile of approximately 14,400 tons of excavated soil waiting for removal from East Palestine, versus 51,100 tons that Norfolk Southern has removed.

– – –

Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “East Palestine Train Derailment” by the U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board.