Norfolk Southern Reaches $600 Million Settlement With East Palestine Train Derailment Victims

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Arjun Singh Contributor
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Railroad company Norfolk Southern reached a $600 million settlement with the victims of a February 2023 train derailment at East Palestine, Ohio, according to a press release issued on Tuesday.

On Feb. 3, 2023, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed near East Palestine, prompting the chemicals’ release into the surrounding area and an evacuation of towns within a one-mile radius of the incident. Residents of the towns evacuated, as well as others near the area, subsequently began a class action lawsuit against Norfolk Southern due to the contamination, with both parties reaching a settlement to end the litigation that will ensure payouts to the affected plaintiffs, according to a press release from the company. (RELATED: Schools Are Still Refusing To Let Athletes Compete In East Palestine Two Months After Toxic Derailment)

“This is another promise kept by Norfolk Southern to make it right for the people of East Palestine and the surrounding communities. In March 2023, the company made commitments to address three long-term concerns of residents: drinking water, home values, and healthcare,” wrote Norfolk Southern in the press release. “Already, the company has announced programs for drinking water and home value assurance. The company is going further through this comprehensive settlement—providing additional, significant monetary relief to individuals, including for healthcare, and to help qualifying local businesses continue to rebuild and grow.”

The settlement needs to be approved by the court presiding over the lawsuit for it to take effect. Norfolk Southern indicated that plaintiffs would be able to use the compensation as they see fit to recover from the incident.

“Individuals and businesses will be able to use compensation from the settlement in any manner they see fit to address potential adverse impacts from the derailment. This could include healthcare needs and medical monitoring, property restoration and diminution, and compensation for any net business loss,” the company noted. “In addition, individuals within 10 miles of the derailment may, at their discretion, choose to receive additional compensation for any past, current, or future personal injury from the derailment.”

The toxic chemicals released into the surrounding area include hydrogen chloride gas, phosgene and benzene, which was followed by sicknesses of persons near the site. After the derailment, emergency officials ordered a “slow burn” of some chemicals, which worsened air quality in surrounding areas and was criticized as unnecessary.

Norfolk Southern had previously announced millions of dollars in other relief efforts for surrounding communities, such as the construction of community safety infrastructure and payments to first responders to the incident, according to the press release. The company’s CEO, Alan Shaw, also committed to paying for the college educations of students in East Palestine.

A federal investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) into the derailment is ongoing. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has also proposed reforms to railroad regulation following the incident.

United for East Palestine, an advocacy group, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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