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Lawmakers urge company to cover Chatsworth train crash claims beyond $200M cap

July 11, 2011|By Jason Wells, jason.wells@latimes.com

California's Congressional delegation today called on the French company that employed the Metrolink engineer involved in the deadly Chatsworth train derailment of 2008 to go beyond the $200-million victim compensation cap.

Veolia Environnement S.A., which supplied Metrolink with train engineers, set up a compensation fund with the transit agency to pay claims related to the crash that killed 25 people and injured scores more, including residents from Burbank and Glendale. Federal law caps damages at $200 million for train accidents.

But in a letter to the company, California's Congressional delegation argued the fund was woefully inadequate when stacked against damage claims that already total more than $230 million.

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The letter -- dated Monday and signed by Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and Brad Sherman (D-Van Nuys) -- said Veolia could either "stand behind a statutory $200 million damages cap and leave the innocent without just compensation, or it can step forward to ensure that no victim of this terrible tragedy is left unable to pay medical bills, stay in their home, or afford to send their children to college."

Metrolink and Veolia have been feuding in court over their shares of liability in the case. Federal investigators determined the engineer -- a La Crescenta resident who died in the crash -- was sending and receiving cell phone text messages in the seconds before the collision with a Union Pacific freighter.

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