LOS ANGELES - A commuter rail agency agreed to pay about $30 million to settle most of the lawsuits from a derailment that killed 11 people and injured 180 others after a driver trying to commit suicide parked his gas-drenched SUV on the tracks, attorneys said yesterday.
Jerome Ringler, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said Metrolink agreed to settle nearly 90 percent of the cases, including nine wrongful death claims and 15 serious injury cases.
He declined to characterize the cases still under negotiation because he didn’t want to affect the settlements. Both sides are trying to resolve the cases before a trial set for Jan. 4, he said.
Metrolink had no immediate comment.
The Jan. 26, 2005, disaster in suburban Glendale was triggered when Juan Alvarez parked a Jeep Cherokee on the tracks.
A fast-moving Metrolink train struck the SUV, derailed, and struck a parked
Alvarez was convicted last year of murder for causing the crash and sentenced to 11 consecutive life terms. He admitted driving onto the tracks in an attempt to commit suicide but said he changed his mind at the last minute and couldn’t get the SUV off the tracks.
If the civil trial proceeds, Ringler and his co-counsel, Brian Panish, plan to argue that the wreck could have been prevented. They said data from the train showed the engineer applied the service brake for six seconds, instead of immediately hitting the emergency brake.