A small part of the Lake Megantic derailment - Date/Photographer unknown - TSB.
30 January 2014
Lake Megantic Victims Turn to Former U.S. Senator to Negotiate Settlement
Lake Megantic Quebec - Relatives of the 47 people killed in the Lake Megantic disaster last summer are enlisting the aid of a former U.S. senator in their class-action lawsuit against Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA).
Lawyers representing the victims' families said Thursday that George Mitchell will try to negotiate a settlement from MMA and its insurance provider.
Mitchell, who served in the Senate between 1980 and 1995, has extensive experience as a negotiator in war-torn countries.
He was appointed peace envoy to Northern Ireland in 1995 by former U.S. president Bill Clinton and, most recently, acted as a special envoy in the Middle East at the behest of President Barack Obama.
"Knowing Senator Mitchell's track record, we're convinced he can help us out of this impasse," said Peter Flowers, one of the lawyers suing MMA.
The former Democratic senator is perhaps most famous for co-authoring the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, a peace accord largely credited for ending the campaign of violence between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland between the 1960s and 1990s.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking 75 percent of MMA's $25-million insurance policy for the families of those who died in the explosions that followed the crash.
The 75 percent would also cover people maimed or severely injured by the crash.
As for the remaining 25 percent of the policy, the plaintiffs want to see that money go toward reclaiming property that was destroyed or damaged in the disaster.
The lawsuit will play out in an Illinois courtroom since MMA's parent company is based in a Chicago suburb.
Shortly after the fatal derailment, MMA filed for bankruptcy, claiming its $25-million insurance policy won't cover the cost of rebuilding the city and cleaning the millions of litres of crude oil that gushed from the train's tankers after the crash.
American and Canadian bankruptcy courts approved the sale of MMA to a New York investment group last week.
Fortress Investment Group (FIG) purchased the embattled rail operator for $15.7 million and will assume control of its 770 kilometres of train tracks in April.
MMA continues to run freight trains across much of southeastern Quebec, including Lake Megantic, though it no longer carries crude oil.
The Canadian Transportation Agency announced Thursday it would once again extend the company's railway license until 1 Apr 2014, when FIG takes over.