Liability Cap Leaves Victims In Despair

Lawerence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Victims and family members of the 2008 Metrolink crash gave passionate testimony to the aid of U.S. Sen Dianne Feinstein about their experiences after the deadly accident, and how a liability cap has left them incapable of paying for care.

About 20 victims and relatives of those killed in the collision with a Union Pacific freight train met privately at the Simi Valley Library with Molly O’Brien, a field representative for the Democratic senator from California. Several met with reporters afterward.

For more than an hour, they told how they’ve expressed their extreme frustration with elected officials and asked that Feinstein press Congress to raise the limit on how much money railroads can be compelled to pay in damages to accident victims and their families. They also demanded that they be able to testify before federal lawmakers.

“Words cannot express what this has done to my spirit,” said Jeanette Noble, 56, of Camarillo, whose father, Dennis Arnold, was killed in the crash. “Government is supposed to protect the people, not corporations that act negligently. People were maimed and killed on their own soil by a foreign company.”`

“The cap is a joke,” said Frank Kohler, 66, of Simi Valley, whose severe head injury has prevented him from returning to work as a critical care nurse. “The judge told us that what he would have to give us was far less than appropriate.”

Although his lawyer asked for $1.8 million in damages, Kohler said he received $600,000. After attorney’s fees, living expenses and reimbursements to his medical and disability insurance companies, he said he has about $120,000 left.

Barbara Kloster, 76, of Thousand Oaks said her 57-year-old son Michael was almost cut in half in the wreck and now requires lifetime care. His lawyer requested $21 million for him; he received $7 million. Kloster estimated that her son could end up $500,000 in the red after all his legal and medical insurance bills are paid. Los Angeles Times, 27 July 2012.

Two bills aiming to raise the liability cap were introduced after the accident, but were struck down.