Use of should | BNSF: Victims of rail accidents should be required to use arbitration

In a federal lawsuit, BNSF Railway argues that Missouri derailment victims should be forced to pursue arbitration-based compensation as opposed to going to court.

To obtain settlements, rather than filing lawsuits, BNSF Railway Co. has urged a federal judge to mandate arbitration for those who were injured in a fatal Amtrak crash in Missouri.

Amtrak's Southwest Chief train from Los Angeles to Chicago collided with a pickup truck that was obstructing an intersection at Mendon, Missouri, on railroad rails owned by BNSF. In the crash on June 27, three railway passengers, the truck driver, and numerous more people were hurt or killed.

Since the crash, numerous lawsuits have been brought against both railway companies. The steep crossing, which lacked any lights or other warning signs of an approaching train, had been under fire from Missouri transportation officials, Chariton County leaders, and locals.

BNSF requested a preliminary order to force the victims to use arbitration rather than continue with their court cases in a federal complaint filed on Tuesday. The corporation also requested that the judge delay proceedings in lawsuits now being heard in Missouri courts until the arbitration issue has been resolved.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based BNSF claims that when passengers purchased tickets from Amtrak, they checked a box indicating their assent to the terms and conditions, which include agreements to binding arbitration. Because it serves as the host railroad for Amtrak, BNSF contends that the agreements apply to the business.

Grant Davis claims BNSF is attempting to remove his client's constitutional right to a jury trial. Grant Davis was selected as the primary attorney for a plaintiff's committee tasked with coordinating pre-trial issues in the multiple complaints.

"We think they're factually and legally mistaken on this question, "added Davis. "This effort is doomed since BNSF was not a party to (Amtrak's) feeble attempt at an arbitration agreement. By bringing a lawsuit against the exact people it hurt, BNSF is only adding insult to injury."

Relatives of the three passengers who passed away, Rochelle Cook, 58, Kim Holsapple, 56, all of De Soto, Kansas, and Binh Pham, 82, of Kansas City, Missouri, are among the defendants listed in the case.

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