KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dozens of lawsuits have been filed in this summer’s deadly Amtrak crash and derailment in Mendon, Missouri. Now a judge has told the attorneys representing those passengers and other victims to work together.

Attorneys involved in those cases say the measure is fairly common in incidents with lots of people affected. But this shouldn’t be confused with a class-action lawsuit.

Three passengers and a dump truck driver were killed when an Amtrak train collided with that truck at the Mendon crossing in June. Since then their loved ones and many of the dozens of passengers and some crew members who were injured have filed lawsuits.

Most allege BNSF Railroad didn’t properly maintain the crossing, saying it was at an angle, too steep, with loose gravel, and reduced sight lines of trains approaching at speeds of 90 miles per hour. There also were no gates or crossing arms.

Now those cases are ready to move forward in Chariton County Circuit Court to what’s called the discovery phase, where they can deposition witnesses to get the facts and statements they’ll need at trial.

“There are certain facts about who is at fault, general liability, that are the same in all of these cases so we don’t want to wear out the witnesses by having to take their depositions numerous times,” Grant Davis said.

Davis is a Kansas City attorney who is representing more than 40 passengers. He is now working to organize a steering committee of attorneys to conduct that discovery for all plaintiff’s lawyers involved.

They’ll determine what’s relevant to all cases. After discovery the cases can then proceed individually with each plaintiff entitled to his or her own settlement or possible jury award of damages.

“This about bringing justice to those innocent folks that were victims of that negligence,” Jerry Schlichter, a St. Louis attorney representing nine passengers and two Amtrak conductors, said.

Though this is being done to try to speed up the process there’s debate about whether there could still be significant delays in these lawsuits.

Attorneys for the railroad want to wait for the full National Transportation Safety Board report before depositions. That could mean a delay of up to two years before things can even get going.

“The NTSB investigation is something we’d like to get results of,” Schlicter said arguing the materials used in the preliminary report could be made available now.

“We don’t need any report like the NTSB report to go forward with our cases,” Davis countered saying attorneys can conduct their own interviews to obtain the same findings.

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