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Lawsuits mount as town pays for cleanup

MONTREAL -- Victims of the Quebec railway disaster have launched further legal action against companies linked to the derailment that decimated their town -- and one lawyer insists the multimillion-dollar cascade has only begun.

The family of a Lac-Mégantic man killed in the fiery crash filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Monday in a U.S. court against rail and petroleum firms connected to the oil-filled tankers that exploded in the town.

Their lawyer, Peter Flowers, told The Canadian Press he expects to present many individual lawsuits like this one before the end of the week.

"We expect 15 to 20 at least over the next couple of days," Flowers, of Chicago-based Meyers & Flowers, said in a phone interview Tuesday.

"We'll be asking for millions of dollars for every one of these folks."

Word of the looming lawsuits surfaced as Lac-Mégantic's mayor announced Tuesday her municipality has threatened to sue the railway operator at the centre of the derailment -- Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Inc. -- for $4 million.

Colette Roy-Laroche alleges MMA has failed to cover the costs of the post-disaster cleanup, forcing the town to write the cheques itself.

Companies connected to the derailment may face another hurdle in the future: a motion presented last week in a Quebec court seeking permission to file a class-action lawsuit.

The derailment in the town of 6,000 set off several massive blasts, wiped out part of the downtown core and is presumed to have killed 47 people.

Today alone, Flowers expects to set in motion as many as five additional wrongful-death lawsuits at the Cook County courthouse in Illinois.

His first suit, launched Monday, was initiated by the family of Jean-Guy Veilleux, who was killed in the runaway-train disaster. The Quebec coroner's office publicly identified Veilleux, 32, on Tuesday as one of the victims.

Plaintiff Annick Roy is seeking damages from 10 defendants, including MMA, its major stockholder Rail World Inc., top rail executive Edward Burkhardt and several American petroleum companies. Roy is identified as the administrator of Veilleux's estate as well as the guardian of the estate belonging to their daughter, who is a minor.

"On July 6, 2013, plaintiff's decedent Jean-Guy Veilleux was present in downtown Lac-Mégantic near the site of the derailment and was consumed by the fire and explosion," reads the court document, filed in the Cook County courthouse.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 24, 2013 A11


Updated on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 8:01 AM CDT: Corrects spelling of Lac-Mégantic

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