Corboy & Demetrio Secures $22.5 Million for Victim of Rockford Train Derailment & Explosion

Lawsuit Claimed Negligence against Railroad in Fiery Derailment and Explosion

The husband of a Rockford woman who died in a fiery train derailment in 2009 has settled his lawsuit against three railroad companies for $22.5 million, according to his lawyers at the Chicago law firm of Corboy & Demetrio.  

The plaintiff, 40, whose wife, 44, died as she ran on fire from their car, was represented by Robert J. Bingle and Philip Harnett Corboy, Jr., partners at the plaintiff’s personal injury firm.  The plaintiff was also badly burned in the explosion as he tried to flee for safety. 

“This was a tragedy that did not have to occur.  There were a series of missteps by the railroad that culminated with this train going over a washout,” Robert J. Bingle said.  “We are delighted that we could resolve this case for the family.  Nothing will ever replace their wonderful wife and mother but this settlement provides them some sense of justice,” he added. 

The plaintiff was in his car with his wife and their daughter on June 19, 2009, in Rockford, when a Canadian National Railway Company (CNRC) train, with 114 cars, including 74 tankers filled with ethanol, derailed.  The train was traveling from Freeport, Illinois, to Chicago. 

The family was waiting for the train to pass when 18 cars containing two million gallons of ethanol derailed at the washout, located a few yards west of the intersection, causing an explosion and massive fire ball, which engulfed the plaintiff’s car, the lawsuit alleges.  

The complaint was filed against CNRC alleging that it was negligent in the operation, maintenance and supervision of the CNRC train and negligent in the maintenance and inspection of the CNRC railroad track.  Illinois Central Railroad Company and Chicago, Central & Pacific Railroad Company, both subsidiaries of CNRC, were also named in the suit as operators of the train and track where the derailment occurred.  

Approximately 20 minutes before the train derailed, the Winnebago County (Rockford) 911 center phoned CNRC at its headquarters in Montreal, Canada, and relayed to a representative there that a portion of the railroad track near the scene of the derailment was washed out, according to court documents.  Pretrial discovery also produced documents and witness testimony that indicated that the engineer of the soon-to-be derailed train had noticed water conditions on the track minutes away from the derailment and instead of slowing down, he actually sped up. 

Philip Harnett Corboy, Jr. said, “Proper communication between and amongst railroads like these in the Canadian National Railway system is a necessity, not a luxury.  Railroads carrying hazardous cargo that travel through crowded residential areas like Chicago and Rockford need to be extra cautious about their cargo and any dangers ahead.  The railroads dropped the ball in this instance and a solid, loving family was literally- and figuratively- blown up.  I hope by this settlement the CNR and other like-sized railroads treat their communications systems with the utmost of importance.” 

Besides her husband, the decedent is survived by four daughters, ages 19, 17, 14 and 11. 

The settlement was approved by Cook County Circuit Judge Tom Hogan. 

To consult with attorneys Bob Bingle or Flip Corboy, or any other attorney at Corboy & Demetrio, please call 312.346.3191.  We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.