Settlement money announced for victims of Lac-Mégantic rail disaster by Justin Giovannetti, January 9, 2015, The Globe and Mail
The families of those who died in the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster will have access to a $200-million (U.S.) fund, according to details released Friday from the bankruptcy case of the railroad responsible for the 2013 tragedy in eastern Quebec. The fund still needs to be approved by Canadian and American courts before the first cheques are mailed to the families of the 47 people killed in the crash. A firefighter who died by suicide three months after the disaster was added to the list of victims. Money could flow as soon as this spring.
“The families of the victims need to live with this disaster every day. Those in town have gone into debt to try to get back on our feet and rebuild. If this could let us start over our lives on the right foot, that would be great, but we haven’t seen any money yet,” Yannick Gagné, the owner of the Musi-Café bar where the majority of the victims died, told The Globe on Friday. Mr. Gagné has rebuilt the Musi-Café, but he’s still awaiting the help he says he was promised in the weeks after the disaster.
The settlement money announced Friday was drawn not only from the liquidation of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, the firm at the centre of the derailment, but also from a number of companies that extracted the oil, built the rail cars and leased them to shippers.
According to Peter Flowers, a Chicago-based lawyer involved in a wrongful death lawsuit, talks are continuing about how much of the $200-million will go to the families of victims.
“The money goes to the wrongful death victims – a class-action filed in Canada – those who suffered economic and emotional damages, and to the provincial and federal governments’ environmental claims,” [Will there be any money left for the people, after Harper government takes what he wants?] Mr. Flowers said.
Crews are still demolishing buildings in downtown Lac-Mégantic and locals remain jittery about how much compensation they’ll receive. Property owners downtown have received $37-million from the government. But victims of the disaster have so far received nothing from the companies.
While bankruptcy trustee Robert Keach said he is seeking $500-million for the victims’ fund before Monday’s filing deadline, Mr. Flowers said the decision not to pay by three of the largest corporations linked to the disaster was responsible for the shortfall. [Is there a word in the English language to accurately describe those corporations and their lawyers and management?]
“The main three bad actors, World Fuels, Canadian Pacific Railway and Irving Oil, aren’t contributing a penny to this settlement. We’re going to keep going after them very hard in American court,” said Mr. Flowers. The three companies have so far denied any responsibility for the 2013 disaster. [Emphasis added]
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