Timothy Brodigan is still working to overcome injuries he suffered in the derailment of Amtrak 501, a devastating crash that left him paralyzed and unable to walk. In the two years since part of his spine was crushed, he’s making progress, but slowly.
“He’s a fighter and that’s what I’m most proud of about my young client,” said Brodigan’s attorney. Todd Gardner. who filed a lawsuit in U.S. Federal District Court in Tacoma on Wednesday on behalf of Brodigan and his family. The suit named the Washington State Department of Transportation, Sound Transit and Amtrak as defendants.
Brodigan was 16 and bound for Portland when the Amtrak Cascades derailed near DuPont on Dec. 18, 2017. Three people died and more than 60 were injured when the train entered a 30 mile per hour curve at nearly 80 miles per hour. The engine and several cars flew off the overpass, crashing onto the southbound lanes of Interstate 5.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found Amtrak, WSDOT, and Sound Transit responsible. The NTSB’s final reports said the engineer at the controls wasn’t adequately trained on the route, speed limit signs were too small to read, and the agencies collectively decided to use the newly opened Point Defiance Bypass, despite a risky sharp turn, before installing positive train control that would have slowed the train automatically.
“There was pressure, we know, by WSDOT. We know there was pressure by Sound Transit to get out there as opposed to waiting. And Amtrak went along with it,” Gardner said.
Several injured passengers have sued Amtrak in federal court and been awarded tens of millions of dollars by juries. But Gardner said this is the first suit blaming all three agencies involved. Gardner said he wants to be sure Brodigan has the money he needs to benefit from advances in medical technology that may help him walk again.
“When something comes up, and it will in the future, that will help him be one of those that can access it,” Gardner said.
Amtrak, Sound Transit and WSDOT all declined to comment on the suit. A trial date has not been set.
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