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Judge appoints 4 attorneys to consolidate East Palestine train derailment lawsuits

Judge appoints 4 attorneys to consolidate dozens of lawsuits over East Palestine derailment
Judge appoints 4 attorneys to consolidate dozens of lawsuits over East Palestine derailment 02:39

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (KDKA) — A judge in Ohio appointed four attorneys to take the lead in the legal fight over the derailment in East Palestine and consolidate 31 lawsuits. 

A Pittsburgh lawyer says this will benefit both his clients and the public. 

The Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine more than two months ago but the lawsuits keep on coming.

Pittsburgh attorney Bob Peirce represents victims of all kinds. 

"Our law firm was retained to represent a variety of people impacted by this derailment. We currently represent business owners. We represent property owners. We also represent individuals who are forced to leave their homes and incurred expenses due to this accident," Peirce said. 

A federal judge just ruled to consolidate 31 lawsuits against Norfolk Southern, including Peirce's suit. The consolidation designates four attorneys to steer the litigation.

Update on legal battles surrounding East Palestine derailment 02:15

"I believe the consolidation makes a lot of sense," Peirce said. "All of the plaintiff lawyers to date who have filed a variety of claims in the northern district of Ohio have agreed for this one judge to voluntarily bring these cases together, and it really does make a lot of sense. The railroad has agreed to it as well, and we thank them for doing that, and not opposing it." 

The rail company now faces several dozen suits stemming from the derailment and eventual release of more than 1 million gallons of vinyl chloride that forced the evacuation of East Palestine. Most plaintiffs claim those toxic chemicals did a number on their health and there's the uncertainty of what the future holds. 

"The idea would be one judge would give a ruling that would apply to everyone involved. That way there's consistency in how the matters proceed. And in addition, the parties can work together and coordinate their efforts. What I mean by that is you don't have 10 or 20 separate cases going on the same matter at the same time and parties aren't available. This should move the case forward in a quicker manner and hopefully allow for a quicker resolution for all the victims," Peirce said. 

Also this week, a second local school district filed a lawsuit on behalf of students and staff allegedly impacted. The Western Beaver County School District, about 15 miles from the derailment, called the railroad negligent, saying it exposed its buildings and residents to a highly toxic mix of dangerous chemicals. 

It follows Blackhawk School District, which filed a similar suit last month. Those suits will not join the consolidation since they were filed in Pennsylvania. 

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