Empowering East Palestine Residents to Restore their Lives

On February 3, 2023, an unthinkable catastrophe unfolded in East Palestine, a small town situated on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. A Norfolk Southern freight train, packed with toxic chemicals, jumped its tracks in the night. This devastating derailment left the approximately 4,700 local residents in a state of disruption and uncertainty.

The unfolding disaster only got worse. The derailment resulted in 38 freight cars veering off the tracks and forming a pile of burning wreckage. Among the toppled cars, eleven were cargo vessels for five particularly hazardous chemicals: vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, isobutylene, and possibly benzene.

In the aftermath, hundreds of residents were forced to abandon their homes for days, displaced by the poison fumes spreading in their air and water. This toxic onslaught included vinyl chloride, a potent carcinogen with devastating effects on both the nervous system and various organs. The derailment killed animals in the area and severely sickened numerous residents. 

Adding insult to injury, the railroad company’s misguided remediation effort involved draining vinyl chloride into a trench and setting it aflame. The incineration of this chemical generates an insidiously toxic gas that was deployed as a weapon of mass destruction in World War I. This not only worsened the environmental crisis, but also exacerbated the injuries, fears and anger among the residents.

Watts Law Firm LLP and Erin Brockovich Talk Toxic Train Derailment

Attorney Mikal C. Watts knew the residents of East Palestine needed information from a trusted legal advocate as soon as possible. As noted by the Cincinnati Enquirer, Mikal held a town hall session alongside environmental activist Erin Brockovich to provide information on toxic train derailments, urging East Palestine’s residents to retain focus amidst the turmoil, highlighting the yet-to-unfold health complications and forthcoming litigation. Due to a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that applies to attorneys in the state, Mikal was unable to take direct questions from residents. Instead, he took to the stage with a detailed slideshow, presenting a clear understanding of the incident, precedent cases, and potential future challenges to the affected community.

What emerged from this presentation was a startling reality – derailments are an alarmingly frequent occurrence. “It is a shockingly dangerous phenomenon,” he reported, and the residents seemed taken aback that these situations occurred much more frequently than they knew. Mikal shared federal data revealing that Norfolk Southern, the very rail company responsible for the East Palestine disaster, had reported 3,397 events classified as derailments over the past two decades. This staggering number equates to a derailment happening roughly every three days.

CBS News subsequently reported that railroad unions representing workers have been complaining for the last three years about railroad companies “cutting corners, stretching workers thin and rushing essential safety checks.” While railroad companies were giving out stock buyouts and dividends to shareholders, railroad workers suffered on the job, and the ultimate victims of these safety cuts – motivated by greed – are the residents of East Palestine.

Discover the Power of Banding Together in a Mass Tort Lawsuit

There is strength in numbers. Throughout this tragedy and the aftermath, the residents of East Palestine have come together to help each other, as neighbors, survive the worst disaster most have ever seen. This is the power of banding together. Residents affected by the Ohio train derailment can further stand up against the corporate negligence and greed that has fundamentally altered their collective lives by joining our lawsuit to hold Norfolk Southern accountable to its victims. 

Watts Law Firm LLP is here to guide those residents through the legal maze, to advocate for our clients with strength, experience and expertise in these types of environmental disasters. While there is power in numbers, it is also important to understand each person, and each family’s story, will be different. Their damages and suffering in the aftermath of this tragedy is unique. Watts Law Firm LLP will not only be an effective advocate for the entire community affected by this tragedy, we also make sure every client receives individual attention and their distinctive story is told. 

While the Ohio train derailment disaster has disrupted lives and instilled fear in a community, it has also ignited a collective resolve to seek justice. As we unite in this legal battle, we are transforming a narrative of despair into a story of hope, resilience, and empowerment.

Empower Your Ohio Train Derailment Claim

FAQs About the Ohio Train Derailment Lawsuit

What does it mean that an Ohio train derailment lawsuit is a mass tort?

Mass tort litigation, including our Ohio train derailment lawsuit, is where individuals group together to prove liability, or responsibility, for the disaster. Then, once the defendant is held to be liable by the court, every client is able to recover their own damages based on their individual, unique situation – you are not just another number in a group. Collectively, our mass tort law firm has the power to hold those responsible accountable; we then advocate for our clients on an individual basis to prove the specific damages that apply to each person. We are committed to fighting for compensation that genuinely mirrors your personal suffering and losses.

What should I do if I was impacted by the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment?

The most important thing after an environmental disaster such as this is to make sure you and your family can get out of the area where the toxic fumes are lingering and ensure your health is stabilized. Get yourself and your family screened by doctors and note to the doctors that you may have been exposed to hazardous chemicals. Have follow up appointments on a regular basis, and closely monitor how small children are feeling. Take any pets to the veterinarian to see if they have negative effects from the exposure, as well. Reach out to our team at Watts Law Firm LLP to determine your eligibility to join our group of East Palestine residents in the Ohio train derailment lawsuit as soon as you can.

What Are the Symptoms Caused by Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals?

Symptoms can vary depending on the chemicals you were exposed to, as well as your individual health. Go to the emergency room or see a doctor as soon as possible if you or your family has any of these types of symptoms:

  1. Respiratory symptoms: These can include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and in severe cases, pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs), which can cause severe breathing difficulties.
  2. Neurological symptoms: These might involve headaches, dizziness, confusion, seizures, and a loss of consciousness.
  3. Gastrointestinal symptoms: These may encompass nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
  4. Skin and eye irritation: Contact with or exposure to certain chemicals can cause redness, burning, blistering of the skin, and eye irritation or damage.
  5. Other physical symptoms: Depending on the nature of the exposure, there may be systemic symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness, fever, irregular heartbeat, and changes in blood pressure.

What is the Ohio Attorney General lawsuit against Norfolk Southern?

The Ohio Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern, seeking a number of civil remedies for the disaster, including reimbursement for emergency responders, clean up, waterway pollution and other expenses paid by the state of Ohio and its resulting damages. This is an important case, but it will not reimburse residents of East Palestine who were displaced and have become ill due to the derailment. For recovery of those types of individual damages, residents should reach out to Watts Law Firm LLP to join the civil lawsuit we have against Norfolk Southern. 

Do I have to join a Ohio train derailment lawsuit – is there any other way to be reimbursed for my losses?

Deciding to join a train derailment lawsuit might not be an easy step to take, particularly when you’re dealing with the aftermath of such a traumatic incident. However, the repercussions of these accidents can be profound and long-lasting, causing severe injuries, emotional trauma, and significant financial burdens due to medical bills and loss of income.

The financial toll of medical care, treatments, long-term care, rehabilitation, and other related expenses can be staggering, threatening your family’s economic stability. With healthcare costs continuously on the rise, the strain of covering these expenses can be immense.

Participating in a lawsuit following a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, can provide you with the monetary compensation necessary to offset these burdens and ensure your future financial stability. While no amount of money can fully compensate for the trauma experienced, a successful claim can serve a dual purpose. It not only addresses your individual situation but also shines a light on the broader safety issues at play.

A lawsuit sends a powerful message to negligent parties, such as railway companies, prompting them to scrutinize their safety protocols and prevent similar incidents from happening again. Furthermore, your involvement in this lawsuit can act as a deterrent for future negligence, playing a pivotal role in enforcing higher safety standards for railways, protecting countless others from enduring the same experience.

Ultimately, by taking a stand and participating in this lawsuit, you’re not only safeguarding your family’s future but also empowering yourself and others. You’re contributing to a broader movement for accountability and safety, ensuring that your voice and the voices of other victims are heard loud and clear. In the face of adversity, you have the power to affect meaningful change and foster a safer, more accountable railway system for all.

Disclaimer: This page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Empower Your Ohio Train Derailment Claim


Mikal Watts

Written on behalf of Mikal Watts, and reviewed by Watts Law Firm LLP

Mikal C. Watts is Board-Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is a Martindale-Hubbel AV Rated Lawyer.