PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Amtrak has started settling lawsuits with victims of last year’s deadly derailment in Philadelphia, and lawyers involved in the process say a strict confidentiality provision prevents them and their clients from talking about how they’re doing or how much money they’ve received.
The railroad reached the first settlements last week, quietly resolving cases brought by two women who suffered head and other injuries in the May 2015 wreck, court records show. Dozens of other lawsuits are still pending.
Eight people were killed and more than 200 people were hurt when the Washington-to-New York train sped into a sharp curve and tumbled from the tracks. Federal investigators say the engineer was distracted by word that a nearby train had been hit by a rock and lost track of where he was. They say he accelerated full-throttle to 106 mph instead of slowing down for the curve’s 50 mph speed limit.
One of the women receiving a settlement said in her lawsuit that she learned she was pregnant while in the hospital with broken bones and a concussion. Jessica Baen, of Brooklyn, New York, said she’d been thrown across one of the most badly damaged cars and feared injury to her unborn child.
How are Baen and her child doing now? Her lawyer, Adam Barrist, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he wasn’t allowed to say. “The confidentiality provision of the settlement agreement is very strict,” Barrist said. “I would risk subjecting my client and myself to liability if were to provide answers to the questions.”
Amtrak’s lawyer didn’t respond to a message. Amtrak has taken responsibility for the crash and says it won’t oppose claims for compensatory damages like medical expenses, but the pool for potential payouts is capped under federal law at $295 million. Lawyers say that could easily be exhausted, given the number of deaths and serious injuries.
A lawyer for the other woman receiving a settlement said the confidentiality clause prevented him from disclosing how much Amtrak was paying, but that it was enough to cover all of her out-of-pocket medical costs.
Adriana Passamano, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, suffered injuries to her neck, back and hip, tooth and jaw damage and permanent disability, according to her lawsuit. “She’s always going to keep with her the memory, the thought of it and the trauma,” lawyer Thomas Kenny said. “It’s with her all the time.”