Thursday, December 5, 2013
The widow of a railroad worker crushed to death in 2012 when two 1,500-pound rolls of newsprint fell out of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway car has been forced to put her wrongful-death lawsuit on hold because of the Maine-based railroad’s bankruptcy, according to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Sarah Troester, a Delaware resident whose husband, Jefferson Troester, was an engineer for Arcelor-Mittal Railways Inc., has filed a motion asking U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Louis Kornreich to allow her case to continue against the railroad and other defendants.
Troester’s attempt to resume her lawsuit is just one factor complicating the railroad’s bankruptcy case. Several other disputes have arisen among the parties, including victims’ families, the railroad’s insurance provider and one of its major creditors.
The railroad’s court-appointed trustee filed an objection to Troester’s motion on Wednesday, saying her request has no legal merit.
The Hermon-based railroad filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization shortly after an accident July 6, when an unmanned Montreal, Maine & Atlantic train carrying 72 cars of crude oil rolled downhill into the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, derailed and exploded, killing 47 people and destroying 40 buildings in the heart of town.
An effort is under way to find a buyer for the railroad. As is typical in a bankruptcy case, all lawsuits against the railroad have been put on hold pending the outcome of the Chapter 11 proceedings.
Troester filed her lawsuit on Feb. 19 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County against a group of defendants including Arcelor-Mittal Railways; steel maker ArcelorMittal; the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic; East Millinocket-based Great Northern Paper Co. LLC; and Philadelphia Media Network, publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.
According to the lawsuit, Jefferson Troester was transporting rail cars containing massive newsprint rolls produced by Great Northern Paper, for offloading at the newspaper publisher’s warehouse in Upper Merion, Pa.
On May 18, 2012, he opened the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic rail car to offload the cargo, and two 1,500-pound rolls fell out, pinning him between the loading platform and the rail car.
He suffered “traumatic chest and abdominal injuries resulting in compression asphyxiation and leading to his untimely death at age 43,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit alleges that the paper rolls were not properly secured in the rail car before their transport.
Robert Keach, a Portland attorney who is the trustee for the railroad in the bankruptcy case, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. In his objection filed with the court, he argues that defending against Troester’s lawsuit would detract too much from efforts to resolve the bankruptcy case.
“The trustee continues to work towards maximizing recovery for all creditors,” the objection says. “Time and money that the trustee will have to expend in defending against the tort action will interfere with MMA’s bankruptcy case and necessarily reduce the recovery available to creditors.”
Troester’s motion argues that any judgment awarded in her lawsuit would not hurt the bankruptcy creditors because it would be paid out of the railroad’s $50 million liability-insurance policy from Indian Harbor Insurance Co.
“The debtor has insurance coverage for the claim, including coverage for defense,” it says.
J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at: