Crime & Justice

Judge to determine $200 million settlement split among Chatsworth crash plaintiffs

A plaque at Los Angeles' Union Station entitled
A plaque at Los Angeles' Union Station entitled "Unfinished Journeys" honors the passengers and rescuers who were affected by the Sept. 12, 2008 Metrolink crash in Chatsworth.
Brian Watt/KPCC

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In a downtown Los Angeles courtroom on Friday, a judge is scheduled to begin hearing from survivors and relatives of the victims of Metrolink’s 2008 crash in Chatsworth.

The collision of a commuter train and a freight train killed 25 people and injured more than 100. Veolia Transportation employed the engineer who investigators determined was sending text messages when the crash happened. The company agreed to a $200 million settlement.

Attorney Mark Hiepler represents some of the plaintiffs. He says a LA Superior Court Judge now must figure out the fairest way to divide that sum.

“So he’ll meet with each family, whether you’re injured or suffered a death,” said Hiepler, “and try to do like Solomon, and split up literally a baby.”

The $200 million is the maximum settlement federal law allows in train crashes. Many plaintiffs don’t believe that’s adequate.

There are more than 100 plaintiffs in the case, and the medical bills of some injured survivors have approached $1 million.