Aaron Harris, who suffered a traumatic brain injury and multiple serious fractures in the Amtrak train derailment near Dupont, filed a lawsuit against the rail carrier today in King County Superior Court.
The suit comes on the heels of increased safety measures proposed by Amtrak following the derailment, including activating positive train control on the route. Those changes are too late for Harris and other victims of the recent tragedy.
“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 of the Luvera Law Firm in Seattle, the attorneys for Harris and several other victims of the tragedy. “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?”
Harris, 26, was traveling from his home in Seattle to Portland when the train, running at almost 80 mph in a 30 mph zone, derailed on a sharp curve and dove off an overpass, killing three passengers and injuring dozens more.
He 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. Today, he is staying with his parents and receiving ongoing care, treatment, and monitoring for his injuries. He has not been able to return to his job as manager of Float Seattle, a wellness center, and his long-term prognosis is unclear.
“It was a parents’ worst nightmare – for four hours after the train went off the tracks, we didn’t know where Aaron was being treated – or if he was even alive,” said Lisa Harris, Aaron’s mother. “Fortunately, the first responders immediately got him to the closest hospital and then to Harborview, and since then, we have been very thankful for the outpouring of support we have received from family, friends, colleagues and other community members in Washington, Maine and across the country.”
Gellatly and the Luvera Law Firm are representing several individuals injured as passengers on the Amtrak train and in motor vehicles on Interstate 5, which were struck by the train.