Closing arguments heard in fatal Amtrak derailment civil trial

Nearly two years after the Amtrak derailment near DuPont, the first lawsuit is now in the hands of the jury.

TACOMA, Wash. — Attorneys for Dale Skyllinstad and Blaine Wilmotte say they deserve $16 million above and beyond hundreds of thousands in medical costs because of how the derailment of Amtrak 501 has changed their lives.

Attorneys for Amtrak agree they deserve a big payout, but not nearly that much.

Those were the closing arguments as the first lawsuit filed in the wake of the deadly derailment on Dec. 18, 2017, was handed to a jury inside a federal courtroom in Tacoma.

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”There is no doubt that he suffered the loss of a normal life” attorney Sean Driscoll said of Skyllinstad who was a passenger on the Amtrak Cascades.

Wilmotte was in a truck on southbound I-5 that morning when an Amtrak passenger car landed on it. Both men suffered broken bones, brain injuries and, according to their attorneys, life long mental health issues because of the violence of the derailment.

"He wasn't even on the train," Driscoll said of Wilmotte, he was on his way to work in his buddy's car and he got hit by a train."
The train derailed on the newly opened Point Defiance bypass when the engineer failed to slow down from 80 miles per hour as the train was heading into a 30 mile per hour curve.

Amtrak's attorney's admitted the railroad was at fault but argued Skyllinstad is entitled to $1.5 million and Wilmotte nearly $2.5 million to cover medical costs, lost hours at work at emotional pain and suffering.

“This is not about emotion this is not about sympathy it's about the facts,”  said Amtrak attorney Mark Landman.  Landman accused attorneys for the two of inflating the financial and emotional impacts of the crash. “Throw a big number out and see what happens,” said Landman, telling the jurors, “you're going to decide what's legal and fair.”

A third plaintiff, Aaron Harris had his legal case against the railroad delayed. It’s expected to go to court at a later date. Landman moved for a mistrial based on several statement in Driscoll’s closing argument. U.S. Magistrate Benjamin Settle denied the motion.