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Minot Train Derailment

Representing hundreds of people   injured in the Canadian Pacific train derailment in   Minot was an experience that my law firm and I will never forget. The six-year battle to get compensation for our clients was truly an unbelievable rollercoaster. At times, for example, when the District Court judge in Bismarck ruled that we could not go forward with any of our cases because of preemption, we were at the bottom of that rollercoaster ride. One high point of the litigation was our great trial victory for two Minot clients who were awarded over $1.2 million dollars for injuries they incurred. This jury award occurred after three weeks of trial in Minneapolis. Of course, the most satisfying and gratifying thing of all was to ultimately settle the case on behalf of all of our Minot clients. I want to thank each and every one of you for the opportunity to represent you in some very serious litigation.

You can rest assured that the Canadian Pacific train derailment in Minot and all the wonderful clients who I met as a result of that derailment, will never be forgotten by any of us. I also want to tell you that should you or your families have any need for a lawyer in the future, you should not hesitate to contact my firm.

NOVEMBER 15, 2007:  SETTLEMENT UPDATES

Individual Settlements–we have blown through the CP’s requirement that at least 95% of our clients have to accept their individual settlements!!  We now have signed settlement documents from 971 of our 1005 individual clients!!  If you have not yet sent in your settlement documents please do so immediately.  Since we have exceeded the CP’s requirement on individual cases and because the class action settlement is now final, the CP will soon have to “fund” the settlements.  We are cautiously optimistic that we will now be able to send out settlement checks on the individual cases before Christmas!

Class Action Settlement–approximately 4,000 people filed claims in the class action.  Those claims are now being audited to see if anyone filed a claim who is not eligible to make a recovery under the class action settlement, for e.g. it is possible that some folks accepted a prior settlement from the CP and signed legal release forms after the “cooling off” period, that is, after February 18, 2002.  People who signed legal release forms after that date are not eligible for any money under the class action.  If all 4,000 claims survive the audit, each class member will receive $1,000. The audit process will take a little more time so I would guess that the class action settlement checks will be issued in January.

OCTOBER 9, 2007:  SETTLEMENT UPDATES

Class Action Settlement – Today, U.S. District Judge Dan Hovland gave “final” approval to the class action settlement.  So far, approximately 1,700 people have filed claims under the class action settlement.  If 2,000 people file claims, then each claimant will receive approximately $2,000.  The deadline for filing claims is November 8th.  If there are more than 2,000 people, then the amount each person will receive from the settlement will drop.  For example, if 2,500 people file claims by November 8th, then each person will receive approximately $1,600.  It is expected that the class action settlements will be paid before Thanksgiving.

Individual Settlements – As of October 9th we have 913 people who have indicated they will accept their individual settlement offers.  Many of the remaining claims, that is people who we do not have releases from yet, are minors.  The information on the minor settlements went out just last week.  We expect that most of those release forms will be returned within the next week or so.  As far as the minor settlements are concerned, each minor settlement has to be approved by a state court judge in Minot.  Right now the hearing dates for the minor settlements in Minot are tentatively scheduled for November 7th and 8th.  Assuming all continues to go well, we hope that individual settlement payments may be made in early December.  For sure, we expect the settlements to be paid before Christmas.  If you have not yet sent in your settlement statement and release form, please do so now.

July 31, 2007: SETTLEMENT UPDATES

Individual Settlements – Individual settlement packets were sent to our clients on Friday, July 27, 2007. If you are an individually retained client of ours and you have not received a packet please contact Darcie at dwahl@solberglaw.com or call toll free 877-237-3166. If you have received your settlement packet please fill out the information and return it to our office as soon as possible.

Class Action – For more information on the class action settlement please visit: http://www.minotsettlement.com/.

July 10, 2007: SETTLEMENT UPDATES

1. Class Action – U.S. District Judge Dan Hovland gave his preliminary approval to the class action settlement today. The settlement is for people affected by the derailment who have not filed individual lawsuits. It does not affect the hundreds of people who have individually sued the railroad. The total settlement amount is a little over $7 million. The amount of money a person gets in the settlement depends on the number of claims filed. For example, if 10,000 claims are filed, each person would get around $400. On the other hand if 2000 claims are filed, each person would get about $2,000. Judge Hovland is tentatively set to give it final approval in early October. In the meantime, Minot residents will be notified of the specific terms of the deal, and will be given the choice of being a part of it or opting out and proceeding against the railroad on their own.

Click here to see the Class Action Settlement Agreement.pdf

2. Individual Settlements – We continue to work on the final details of the individual settlements for our 1,005 individual clients. We still hope to have  the individual “settlement packets” out by the end of this week or next week at the latest, barring any unforeseen obstacles. We appreciate all of your patience.

June 13, 2007: Settlement Updates

We continue to work with the CP and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Lebedoff (ret.) regarding the settlement process. Judge Lebedoff will be issuing individual settlement awards and we hope to be in a position to convey those awards to you in early July. In addition, the parties hope to submit the terms of a separate, proposed class action settlement to U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland by mid-July. Thank you for your continued patience.

May 2, 2007 Update:  SETTLEMENT!!

At long last it appears there is a light at the end of the tunnel!  We have reached an agreement, in principle, with the Canadian Pacific Railroad to settle the Minot claims related to the January 2002 train wreck on the outskirts of Minot.

The complex tentative settlement involves two separate categories of claims.  First, it provides for a global settlement for our law firm’s 1,000 clients.  Second, through a class action, it provides for compensation to others who were in Minot at the time of the spill.

As for the settlement of our clients’ individual claims, we need to do a good deal of additional work before we can provide the details of each individual settlement offer.  It is our hope that we will be able to send letters to each of our clients explaining the settlement offer as it relates to each of them by July 4, 2007.  (I promise we will do the best we can to get you the details on your settlement offer by the 4th but if we don’t quite make that date all I can ask for is your patience).

The class action settlement will also take some time to finalize and get court approval.  It should be noted that the class action settlement does not include individuals who already filed lawsuits or who previously signed a valid release with Canadian Pacific Railroad.  In addition, residents who believe they have an injury claim from the toxic spill but who have not yet brought a lawsuit will have the option to “opt out” and exclude themselves from the class action settlement and pursue their individual claims.

This is a victory for the people of Minot who have waited far too long for a fair resolution of their claims against the Canadian Pacific Railroad arising out of the train wreck and resulting toxic spill of anhydrous ammonia over 5 years ago!  Thank goodness we are finally almost to the end of this very long and grueling road.

~ MIKE MILLER

** PLEASE NOTE: Over the next few weeks, as we iron out the details of the individual settlements, we may need to be in contact with you.  One way to help speed things up is to make certain we have the correct contact information for you and your family. With that said, it would be a big help if you would send an email to dwahl@solberglaw.com, that includes: your email address, list of all family members, current mailing address, and current phone number.  If you do not have an email address and you think that we might not have the correct contact information for you and your family, please mail the information to us.

January 22, 2007 Update

UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT WILL NOT HEAR APPEAL ON MINOT DERAILMENT CASE

The United States Supreme Court has turned down a request to hear arguments in a case related to personal injury claims against the Canadian Pacific railroad arising out of the 2002 derailment and toxic spill. In the Lundeen case, the Lundeens asked that their case be heard in state court in Minnesota rather than in federal court. However, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the case should be heard in federal court.

We do not expect the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Lundeen case to have much affect on our Minot clients.

The legal question in the Lundeen case was limited to the issue of whether that case should be heard in federal court or in state court. In their original complaint the Lundeens included a federal law claim, unlike other cases that were filed in state court. Because the Supreme Court has decided not to hear the Lundeen appeal, Minot cases like Lundeen, where the injured party includes a claim under federal law, will be decided in federal court. (None of our clients are in the Lundeen action).

It is important to understand that the Lundeen decision did not say that people injured by the CP derailment have no claim at all against the railroad even though the CP argues that all such claims are preempted under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. This preemption issue is still pending before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and we are optimistic the 8th Circuit will rule the CP is wrong and people injured in train derailments can recover damages for their injuries, medical bills, lost wages and property damage claims.

Click here to read all of the 2006 updates

Click here to read all of the 2005 updates.

ACTION:

Solberg, Stewart & Miller represent nearly 900 people who were injured in the disastrous Canadian Pacific derailment and resulting toxic chemical spill that occurred on January 18, 2002.

We have commenced two class action lawsuits: one in North Dakota and the other in Minnesota. The lawsuits allege that CP was negligent in causing the derailment and is obligated to pay reasonable damages to all people injured by the anhydrous ammonia spill, the largest such toxic chemical spill in the world.

Our firm, working with the Zimmerman Reed law firm (www.zimmreed.com) in Minneapolis, MN, and the Daniel Becnel law firm (www.becnellaw.com) in New Orleans, LA, has retained some of the foremost liability and medical experts in this country.

On March 8, 2004, the NTSB finally issued its report and findings following an extensive investigation of the Minot Canadian Pacific Railway derailment. The NTSB ruled:

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the derailment of Canadian Pacific Railway train 292-16 was an ineffective Canadian Pacific Railway inspection and maintenance program that did not identify and replace cracked joint bars before they completely fractured and led to the breaking of the rail at the joint. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the catastrophic failure of five tank cars and the instantaneous release of about 146,700 gallons of anhydrous ammonia.

Now that the NTSB report has been issued we will vigorously pursue litigation. All NTSB investigation material will be carefully reviewed and analyzed by our liability experts. We will begin to take depositions of CP employees and their experts. Our goal will be to bring our case(s) to trial as quickly as possible and to obtain fair compensation for people who were injured or damaged by the derailment.

Recently, it became clear that we have run into a brick wall in our settlement negotiations, thus those negotiations have been discontinued. We will now focus all our energy on pursuing litigation.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:

It is very important that if you continue to suffer from injuries from the exposure to the toxic anhydrous ammonia that you continue to seek appropriate medical attention. Be sure and keep us informed of such ongoing treatment or new treatment that you receive.

MORE INFORMATION:

The NTSB synopsis report:  http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2004/RAR0401.htm

The Fargo Forum’s continued coverage of the tragic derailment in Minot: http://www.in-forum.com/specials/minot/index5.cfm

CONTACT US:

If you have any questions concerning this case please feel free to contact Darcie Wahl at 701-237-3166 or toll-free 877-237-3166 or her by e-mail at: dwahl@solberglaw.com