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Bill would have taxpayers pay damages for Amtrak crashes in Florida

A 2008 train crash in California’s San Fernando valley drew national headlines for its grim toll: 25 killed, more than 100 injured.

It gained notoriety later when a federal investigation found that the train’s engineer had run a red light after texting. Operators of the train paid $200 million to compensate the victims — the maximum under federal law but only half the total claims.

Under a bill advancing through the Florida Legislature, the state’s taxpayers could be asked to pick up the tab for damages caused by Amtrak even if the operator error was as egregious as in the 2008 crash.

“It’s a horrible public policy,” said Jamie Holland, a Jacksonville lawyer who specializes in railroad issues. “It puts the Florida taxpayer on the hook.”

A similar protection was awarded to CSX, the freight railroad operator, in 2009. Lawmakers made taxpayers liable for potential accidents caused by CSX on the 61-mile SunRail commuter line in Orlando. Story here.

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