Morelli Law Firm had a red-letter day on July 31, 2017 as the civil litigation firm’s plaintiff clients received settlements from Amtrak in relation to a 2015 derailment that killed eight and injured more than 200 passengers.
Individual settlement amounts will not be released, but the awards were part of a larger, $265 million settlement — reportedly the largest ever for a railroad crash. Morelli Law Firm, which was featured on the cover of New York’s Leading Lawyers 2017, represented multiple passengers in the derailment. Two of those victims included celebrity chef Eli Kulp, who was rendered permanently paralyzed by the crash, and former NYPD Lieutenant Michael Walsh, whose endured 12 surgeries and nearly suffered the loss of his right leg.
Firm founder Benedict Morelli served on the Plaintiffs’ Management Committee, which was commended by the presiding judge for their efforts to guarantee the victims a speed and fair resolution.
“First and foremost, these settlements are about providing final closure to the victims and their families, who endured this horrific tragedy,” said Morelli.
Morelli Law Firm played a critical role in negotiating this landmark settlement. Soon after the derailment, the firm spearheaded a successful effort to get Congress to raise the $200 million cap on damages to $295 million.
Additionally, as a Committee member the firm was tasked with creating a framework to resolve the hundreds of claims. With the help of other committee members, including Thomas R. Kline of Kline & Specter and Robert J. Mongeluzzi of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett and Bendesky, a process was developed in which each plaintiff would present evidence to the court-appointed Masters, who would then determine how to most equitably distribute the $265 million, and have their awards reviewed by the judge. Every major plaintiff opted into the framework, waiving their right to a jury trial and appeal. This is the first time this framework has been used in the history of tort litigation and may serve as a model for similar cases moving forward.
“The settlement program was the best possible outcome for my clients, and all the victims of this horrific accident,” Morelli stated. “They deserved swift resolution, and we’re very happy we could provide that.”