Lawsuits Filed Over the Ohio Train Chemical Spill

February 21, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Lawsuits Filed Over the Ohio Train Chemical Spill

On February 3rd, a Norfolk Southern train containing hazardous materials, such as vinyl chloride, derailed near East Palestine, Ohio. Residents were forced to evacuate as the company attempted to limit the effect of toxic chemicals and explosions. Norfolk Southern released toxic chemicals from five train cars, with one of them at risk of exploding. East Palestine returned residents to their homes after the toxic spill was contained.

Despite the company ensuring the town was safe, some residents have filed lawsuits with Norfolk Southern for their negligence that led to the train derailment and the release of dangerous chemicals into the environment. Some plaintiffs have experienced pulmonary irritation due to the toxic chemicals from the train derailment.

Plaintiffs filed these lawsuits to pursue compensation for lost income from evacuations, exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, and anxiety regarding the safety of the air and water.

Train Containing Hazardous Materials Derailed Near East Palestine, Ohio

A train derailment occurred near the small town of East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3rd. The incident occurred before 9 pm on February 3rd when a Norfolk Southern train traveling from Madison, Illinois to Conway, Pennslyvania, derailed near East Palestine, Ohio. Thirty-eight train cars derailed, leading to a fire that caused damage to twelve other cars. 

Eleven of the 50 train cars damaged during the train derailment contained hazardous chemicals. The primary chemical released during the crash was vinyl chloride, a colorless gas used to create plastics. Vinyl chloride is a carcinogenic chemical that can expose people that inhale large amounts of it to liver cancer, lymphoma, brain cancer, leukemia, and lung cancer. It can also release other chemicals when it burns, which can cause eye or throat irritation, severe headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

East Palestine Residents Forced to Evacuate

Responders to the scene of the train derailment discovered contaminated runoff, which led to an evacuation order for people near the train derailment. According to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, officials notified him that one of the train cars containing vinyl chloride was at risk of exploding in a catastrophic blast. This led to a further evacuation order for about 1,500 of the residents of East Palestine so that crews could prevent an explosion.

There were two options regarding this possibly explosive car: allow it to explode or release and burn the chemicals. It was decided to vent the vinyl chloride to prevent the impact of deadly shrapnel caused by an explosion.

The hazardous chemicals from five train cars (despite only one being at risk of exploding) were released into a trough and ignited, causing a large plume above East Palestine. East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Dabrick deemed the area safe after examining air and water samples, and the evacuation order was lifted on February 8th.

Video Shows Mechanical Issues Caused the Train Derailment

A video obtained and released by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on February 13th raised questions about when the crew knew of mechanical issues with the train. The video was captured by a security camera at an equipment plant in Salem, Ohio, twenty minutes before the train derailed. It showed that one of the train’s cars had sparks and flames under it, indicating a mechanical issue with the train car’s axles.

A mile away from the plant where the video was captured, there is a hotbox sensor that sends an alert if a train is overheating. The crew eventually received an alert and applied emergency brakes, but it's unknown if it was from the sensor near the Salem processing plant or the one twenty miles away in East Palestine.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently investigating the train’s data recorder and audio recordings to determine what happened and if there was negligence at fault for the train derailment.

EPA Sent Letter of Potential Liability to Norfolk Southern

On February 10th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a letter to Norfolk Southern regarding their potential liability for the damage caused by the train derailment. It’s the responsibility of the EPA to respond to the release of hazardous chemicals, stop further contamination, and clean up contamination that has already occurred. 

In the process of surveying the scene and helping with cleanup, the EPA conducted air monitoring and observed air and water samples. They discovered that the derailed train cars contained the dangerous chemicals vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, Isobutylene, and butyl acrylate.

Norfolk Southern is held liable for damages due to transporting these harmful chemicals. This liability requires them to reimburse the EPA for costs incurred involving response to the train derailment and financing response activities deemed necessary by the EPA.

East Palestine Residents Filing Lawsuits For Damages Caused by the Chemical Spill

East Palestine residents have attempted to hold Norfolk Southern liable for damages caused by their negligence in multiple lawsuits. East Palestine civilians have suffered from the train derailment, as they have experienced pulmonary irritation, trouble breathing, rashes, and nausea.

Most of these Ohio train derailment lawsuits are seeking compensation for lost wages during the evacuation, health problems caused by exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, increased risk of future illnesses, and psychological trauma associated with living somewhere they don’t feel safe in. Many civilians do not feel safe in the town due to the release of toxic chemicals.

They’ve pointed to the number of fish and animals that have died recently to question how safe air and water are. The plaintiffs in the Ohio train derailment lawsuits seek class-action status to allow their lawsuits to be seen before one judge, which can help to promote consistency in discovery and increase their chances of a global settlement.

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Ohio Train Chemical Spill Lawsuit

Dolman Law Group is a personal injury law firm with a proven history of helping victims hold companies accountable for negligent behaviors that caused damages. We have helped victims of harmful chemicals that caused severe illnesses, such as the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, dangerous chemicals in hair straighteners, and toxic firefighting foam.

Our personal injury lawyers can represent your interests by collecting evidence to prove the at-fault party’s liability, explaining your legal rights, and keeping you up-to-date on any class action consolidation of Ohio train chemical spill lawsuits. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn how we can help you recover compensation for your damages.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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