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Lawsuit alleges negligence in falling bridge, chemical spill

It didn't take long for scores of residents from the Borough of Paulsboro, a small community of about 6,100 people in Gloucester County, to file a personal injury lawsuit seeking compensatory and punitive damages for negligence and trespass in the wake of a recent chemical spill that hospitalized 60 people.

The litigation centers on a "swing" bridge built approximately 150 years ago, in the early 1870s. As the complaint against defendants CSX Corporation and Conrail Corporation (a train operator and the bridge owner and operator, respectively) alleges, defendants "continued to use the bridge for freight trains of 80 cars or more transporting hazardous and toxic chemicals through a populated area" right up to the day of its collapse on November 30.

On that day, the bridge simply gave way, with several tank cars transporting vinyl chloride plunging into the Mantau Creek below.

Vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen linked to various forms of cancer and other ailments.

The fallout from the collapse was both immediate and significant, with witnesses stating in court that a resulting toxic cloud enveloped an entire neighborhood so thickly that "you couldn't see the person next to you."

Key trial evidence will center on an alleged lengthy history of the defendants' negligence in safely maintaining the bridge and responding in a timely manner to repeated warning signs that it was unsafe.

Among other things, plaintiffs state that the defendants received nearly two dozen "trouble tickets" regarding the bridge in 2012 alone leading up to its collapse. The complaint alleges that one rail crew reported a problem with the structure just eight hours before it fell into the creek.

If you or a family member has suffered a personal injury due to the negligence or willful misconduct of another party, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Ancient, rickety railroad bridge caused toxic spill, dozens say," Kevin Koeninger, Dec. 14, 22012

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