Sixteen first responders recently filed a lawsuit surrounding various health conditions suffered after they responded to a train derailment and toxic spill that occurred in Paulsboro, NJ in 2012. The responders claim that the rail company failed to properly train railroad workers to prevent accidents of this nature from occurring and that local emergency response officials/entities or agencies failed to provide necessary respiratory protection to rescue and response crews.
The 82-car freight train derailed when crossing the East Jefferson Street Bridge in Paulsboro. It was carrying roughly 20,000 gallons of toxic vinyl chloride used for making PVC plastic. Exposure to the highly flammable gas is known to cause damage to the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys when inhaled. Long-term exposure has also been linked to liver cancer.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) discovered that the accident occurred when the bridge had not been properly secured by the railway crew before crossing. Seven of the cars derailed and one was significantly damaged, causing a release of toxic fumes into the air. Approximately 700 local residents were evacuated from surrounding areas due to the risk of toxic exposure.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, local police, medics, and firefighters that responded to the accident suffered respiratory issues such as coughing and difficulty breathing, as well as nausea, vomiting, and eye irritation from the chemical exposure. The responders claim they were advised that respiratory protection was either unnecessary or that it was not available.
Within the year following the accident, many of the emergency responders experienced increased illnesses and symptoms including dizziness, asthma and blood clotting complications.
The 16 responders have joined over 2,000 other parties seeking compensation from the railroad company and emergency agencies for their negligent and careless acts and/or omissions in failing to protect emergency workers and the general public from the effects of exposure to vinyl chloride. In addition to monetary compensation for apparent current ailments, the plaintiffs are also seeking sums to cover the costs associated with regular medical monitoring required to timely identify and treat potential illnesses, such as cancer, which may manifest later in life.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury or illness as a result of a New Jersey workplace accident, or from any toxic or chemical exposure which may be the result of a hazardous work environment or some other negligence, please contact Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari to protect your rights by calling (973) 635-5400.