$11 million settlements in Chicago train deaths

By: AP
By: AP

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Metra commuter rail agency will pay $11 million to settle two wrongful death lawsuits stemming from a 2005 derailment, under a settlement approved by a judge Wednesday.

A train traveling from Joliet to Chicago derailed while changing tracks, killing college student Jane Cuthbert, 22, of Oak Forest, and research technician Allison Walsh, 38, of New Lenox. More than 80 other passengers were injured.

Investigators for Metra and the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that human error was the cause of the accident. The train was traveling about 70 mph although signals had directed the engineer to slow to 10 mph before it got to the crossover.

The engineer was fired in 2006 and later admitted fault.

Under the settlement approved by Cook County Judge Thomas Hogan, Cuthbert's family will receive $6 million and Walsh's family will receive $5 million.

The Cuthbert family will never recover from the loss, family attorney Shawn Kasserman said in a statement. "This horrific loss is made even more painful by the fact that it arises out of such gross negligence," he said.

Walsh's death "has devastated this family," said the family's attorney, Daniel Kotin.

They are the only people killed aboard commuter trains in Metra's 25-year history, said Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet. "Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family of these young women," she said.

Of the dozens of negligence lawsuits filed, at least 35 are still pending, according to Corboy & Demetrio, the Chicago law firm handling the bulk of the cases.

Since the accident, Metra has instituted more training and upgraded technology; for example, engineers have to undergo more training time on simulators, Pardonnet said.

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