Railroad offering ‘inconvenience’ compensation
EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Norfolk Southern railway has been offering $1,000 checks to residents in and around East Palestine affected by the Feb. 3 derailment that released toxic chemicals.
A Norfolk Southern spokesman said the residents would not be giving up any future rights for possible legal damages by accepting the money.
“Residents and businesses accepting compensation and reimbursements for expenses or inconvenience is not a settlement of any future claim against Norfolk Southern,” said spokesman Connor Spielmaker. “The only document they sign is an acknowledgment that they have received funds, it is not a legal disclaimer.”
Attorney David Engler, who has a law office in Warren,is advising clients in East Palestine about receiving inconvenience checks — as they could cause a loss of future benefits. He said his firm is representing three area families in this matter.
People would need to have an agreement that states such a payment “in no way limits” their ability to collect from the railroad any other damages that they might receive, and in no way impacts any future cause of legal action people may have, Engler said.
Norfolk Southern is not going door-to-door offering payments. Spielmaker said, however, the railroad is reaching out to provide aid to about 30 East Palestine businesses.
Spielmaker said Norfolk Southern has also established a family assistance center to address the needs of the community.
“Additionally, we are supporting the efforts of the (American) Red Cross and their temporary shelters through a $25,000 donation,” he said.
Staffers from the railroad also remain in East Palestine helping multiple derailment and environmental contractors.
In a news release Monday, the railroad noted more than 700 families and a number of businesses have been helped. In total, more than $1 million has been distributed directly to families to cover costs related to the evacuation, the release states.
“Those include reimbursements and cash advancements for lodging, travel, food, clothes and other related items,” the release notes.
Other assistance provided, according to the railroad, includes a $220,000 donation to the East Palestine Fire Department to replace self-contained breathing apparatus air packs.