Pursuing justice for victims of the 2017 Amtrak derailment | Luvera Law Firm Skip to content

$27 million

Pursuing justice for victims of the 2017 Amtrak derailment

In December 2017, an Amtrak train plunged off a railroad overpass onto Interstate 5, killing three people and injuring dozens more. The train was on its first paid passenger run on a new route from Tacoma, Wash., to Portland, Ore., traveling 80mph in a 30mph zone.

Our team at Luvera Law Firm, including attorneys David Beninger, Patricia Anderson and Andrew Hoyal, represent several of the plaintiffs in their suits against Amtrak.

Donnell Linton, 47 of Renton, is one of many passengers of Amtrak Cascades 501 who took action against Amtrak after the train left the tracks and some of its cars crashed onto the freeway below, leaving him seriously injured. A jury awarded him more than $10 million.

“He and his son got ejected from the train and landed on the pavement below,” said David Beninger. “His dad basically saved his life by wrapping him up and holding him to his chest as they flew through the air to the pavement. Amtrak has spent more time trying to fight these cases than they have trying to fix their problems. Hopefully this verdict will help encourage positive changes.”

A jury also awarded nearly $17 million to Dale Skyllingstad, Blaine Wilmotte, and Madison Wilmotte, who sued for past and future economic and non-economic damages following the crash.

Two were severely injured in the crash. Skyllingstad was a passenger on the train and Blaine Wilmotte was driving on the interstate below when the train derailed.

Another passenger, Aaron Harris, suffered a traumatic brain injury, as well as vertebrae and rib fractures, and spent about 10 days in the intensive care and acute care units at Harborview Medical Center. Harris has also filed a lawsuit against Amtrak.

“Amtrak is promising a host of safety changes, but let’s be clear: they are playing a deadly game of catch-up. It’s been a decade since they were first directed to install positive train control. We’ve heard a lot of empty promises and a lot of excuses,” said Robert Gellatly. “The Amtrak CEO claims he wants to learn from tragedies like this. Before the Amtrak Cascades, we saw catastrophic and preventable crashes in Philadelphia, New York, and California, to name a few. How many lessons will it take before Amtrak is actually held accountable for safety?”

The case brought to light larger safety issues with Amtrak that put passengers at risk. Luvera attorneys not only fought for justice for victims of the derailment, but also raised awareness of these safety issues that had a more global reach.  

Relevant press coverage of the derailment and its aftermath:

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An Amtrak train in the station.

Raising awareness of safety issues

Luvera attorneys David Beninger, Patricia Anderson and Andrew Hoyal represented several of the plaintiffs in their suits against Amtrak for its 2017 derailment near Seattle. The case brought to light a number of safety issues systemic to Amtrak that put passengers at risk. In a National Transportation Safety Board meeting on causes of the derailment, the agency concluded there were multiple failures in rail car safety, and signage, and poor training of the engineer, who missed speed limit and junction signs telling him to slow down before the curve where the train derailed.

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"This is a systemic problem with Amtrak. This is not an individual accident. It was an institutional problem that made an accident waiting to happen."
David Beninger
Luvera Law Firm