Amtrak damage limits and the Chatsworth crash

by Walter Olson on July 20, 2011

Ted Frank rebuts a lame Atlantic column (& follow-up).

{ 4 comments }

1 Hugo S. Cunningham 07.20.11 at 11:19 am

Even if Amtrak’s $220 million damage cap were manifestly inadequate, eg Amtrak allowed a runaway oil train to crash in Penn Station, Congress could appropriate additional money as they did for WTC victims of 9-11. (The WTC victims could have sued the airlines of the two hijacked planes, but putting the two airlines into bankruptcy would still have left the victims’ families short.)

A supplementary Congressional appropriation to cover Chatsworth losses might, however, subject excessive claims to scrutiny.

2 William Nuesslein 07.21.11 at 9:21 am

The WTC payments made Americans feel good about themselves, but they were terrible social policy as those involved with the WTC attack became millionaires while those involved in the Oklahoma City bombing were not so rewarded. Ted Frank explains so well, as he usually does, that making those involved in a train crash millionaires is not necessarily fair.

BTW I was impressed by Senator Colburn’s amendment to limit the future use of statutory presumptions in awarding Agent Orange awards. He actually reviewed the studies and found nothing there to support the presumptions. It is of interest that Ken Feinberg was involved in setting up the presumption that any time in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, no matter how minute or distant from the use of Agent Orange, qualified a disability benefit to any veteran with Parkinson’s decease. The logic was that soldiers should not be required to gather evidence for a claim long after they are mustered out of service. That sounds good until you realize that the studies showing elevated rates of problems in veterans is dubious at best. I know of no evidence whatsoever of averse effects from Agent Orange.

How I wish that the Colburn amendment could be applied to the “first responders” claims from ground zero exposure. “Ground Zero” work was done outdoors where the air was constantly refreshed by mother nature’s breezes.

3 bfs 07.23.11 at 10:12 am

@william “I know of no evidence whatsoever of a[d]verse effects from Agent Orange. ”

I believe that the results of the Air Force Health Study, which took place over 25 years, provides ample evidence of adverse effects related to dioxin, an impurity in Agents, Purple, White, and Orange. The conclusions of the study do not, however, track the VA presumptions. There is a huge difference in exposure between a maintainer who filled spray tanks daily and repaired leaking nozzles and an infantryman who saw a UC-123 fly nearby one afternoon.

4 William Nuesslein 07.24.11 at 7:36 am

My recollection is that the study of Ranch Hand soldiers who actually worked with agent orange came up negative results. I was surprised when agent orange claims came back from the dead some years later. Dioxin was hyped at the time of Love Canal and lead to the cancellation of some waste incinerators. The science at the time was really bad.

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