Thursday, July 2, 2015

RR whistle-blower awarded $1.25M; TN derailment prompts 2 mile evacuation

Railroad whistle-blower awarded $1.25M

Jury awards former union safety official $1.25 million for retaliation and termination over reporting safety violations on tracks running from Tacoma to Vancouver.

A railroad whistle-blower has been awarded $1.25 million by a federal jury in Tacoma after a six-day trial in which the former union and safety official proved he was targeted and terminated on a pretext in 2011 after reporting dozens of safety violations to federal authorities.

The unanimous verdict, which was reached late Wednesday, includes $250,000 in rare punitive damages against Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad for its efforts to discredit Michael Elliott after he raised the safety concerns and then fired him — twice.

Those efforts, according to testimony and court documents, included evidence that a supervisor set up a physical confrontation with Elliott in a BNSF parking lot, and then had him arrested and charged with assault. Elliott spent two days in jail but was acquitted in Pierce County court. The railroad used the incident to justify his dismissal.

Evidence also showed that BNSF officials in Washington colluded to provide inaccurate information to a mediator about whether Elliott had properly reported a 2007 felony conviction for drunken driving and vehicle assault. Elliott insisted he had, and internal emails he produced at trial indicated BNSF supervisors knowingly provided the mediator with inaccurate information, according to Sara Amies, one of Elliott’s Seattle attorneys.

“This is vindication for Mike after he’d been hung out to dry for four years,” said another lawyer, James Vucinovich. “The jury agreed that you can’t treat whistle-blowers like that.”....  more here

 A CSX train burns on Thursday, July 2, 2015, after it derailed near Old Mount Tabor Road in Blount County overnight. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)

Tennessee Train Derailment: 5,000 Residents Evacuated From Maryville

More than 5,000 residents were evacuated after a freight train carrying a "highly flammable and toxic gas" partly derailed and caught fire overnight just outside Knoxville, Tennessee, officials said.

Ten officers were hospitalized after breathing in fumes, Blount County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Marian O'Briant told NBC News.

One car of the train derailed and was on fire, railroad officials said.

An evacuation zone is in place over a two-mile radius from the derailment, near Maryville, and could be in place for up to 48 hours, the fire department said...... more here
Additional coverage: CNN: Thousands evacuated…, Huffington Post: Train Carrying Toxic Substance…

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