A federal appeals court upheld legislation allowing personal injury lawsuits to be filed against railroads in state courts under certain conditions, which Congress passed after a fatal derailment in North Dakota.
In a 2-1 ruling, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that the legislation, which President Bush signed in August 2007, does not infringe upon the rights of railroads.
The ruling opens the door for some residents of Minot, North Dakota to revive suits they had filed against the Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. over a derailment that occurred on the west edge of the city on January 2002.
In March 2006, U.S. District Judge Daniel Howard ruled that Canadian Pacific was protected from claims regarding the derailment by the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The law was later amended and Canadian Pacific challenged the change’s constitutionality.
On July 3, Judge Kermit Bye wrote that the court ruled the amendment to be constitutional.
On January 18, 2002, the Canadian Pacific train derailed on the west edge of Minot and released a cloud of toxic anhydrous ammonia farm fertilizer over the city resulting in one man’s death and eye and lung problems requiring hospitalization for several others.