Judge Nap: Crash Victims Can Sue, But Amtrak's Liability Is Limited
Judge Andrew Napolitano explained what he expects will happen next for the victims of the Amtrak train crash.
So far, at least seven passengers have been confirmed dead, with more than 200 treated for injuries. Others are said to be missing.
Bill Hemmer asked what type of liability Amtrak will have as a result of the fatal derailment. Napolitano answered that Amtrak is liable for injuries in a derailment.
He said a plaintiff doesn't even have to prove negligence by Amtrak in a derailment, since it is "presumed" negligent in such an instance.
While sometimes people cannot take legal action for injuries suffered on government property, the judge said that exception does not apply to Amtrak.
Napolitano said the "bad news" is that the cap on Amtrak's maximum liability is $200 million per accident.
That may seem like a lot, but Napolitano said that would be "easily run through" in an accident this large.
"It has to account for attorney's fees, property damage, compensation to the estates of people who lost loved ones on the basis of the income-earning capacity of the people who died, and it has to account for medical bills and personal injury," said Napolitano.
He said what will happen is a federal judge will appoint a "special master" to decide how to divide the $200 million.
Napolitano added that a case like this will not go to a traditional trial by jury and typically takes three to four years to resolve.
Hemmer noted that buses and airplanes have seat belts, but trains do not.
The judge called that a "very serious issue," recalling that Congress allowed Amtrak an exemption from state seat belt laws.
He said Amtrak also has immunity from lawsuits that would be brought over their lack of seat belts.
Watch the judge's analysis above.