On September 12, 2008, a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train collided near Chatsworth, California, resulting in 25 deaths and more than 150 injuries, many of which were catastrophic. This was the worst train accident in California history. Since the Metrolink train was heading in the direction of Ventura County, which I represent, most of those killed or injured were my constituents.
An extensive investigation conducted by the NTSB found that the operator of the Metrolink system, Veolia Transportation, had a culture of ignoring risk and accepting rule-breaking from the locomotive engineer who was driving the train. He was texting when he ran a red signal and crashed head-on into a freight train.
For the victims and family members, the tragedy of September 12, 2008, has been compounded by a federal law which limits all damages related to all claims arising from a passenger railroad accident to be capped at $200 million.
At a hearing on May 31, 2011, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter D. Lichtman, who must determine the compensation for each victim, stated on the record that the damages from this crash already exceeded $230 million and he estimated that damages will reach at least $240 million before hearings are completed
I have called upon the executives of Veolia to step up and at least cover the real damages -- not punitive damages -- but the real damages caused by this tragedy.