Norfolk Southern to pay $600m settlement over toxic train derailment in Ohio

Norfolk Southern, operator of the train that derailed near Palestine, Ohio in February 2023, has agreed to pay a $600m settlement to end a class action lawsuit filed against it. The derailment caused toxic chemicals to spill over a wide area, which was then set fire to to avoid the risk and expense of cleaning it up.

The company said the agreement, if approved by the court, will resolve all class action claims within a 20-mile radius from the derailment and, for those residents who choose to participate, personal injury claims within a 10-mile radius from the derailment. About 50 cars of the freight train — which had roughly 150 cars and three locomotives — derailed on the outskirts of East Palestine, near the Pennsylvania state line, with some cars transporting hazardous materials. An evacuation covered 1,500 to 2,000 of the town's approximately 4,800 to 4,900 residents.

The settlement comes after Norfolk Southern gave its CEO a 37% pay raise, suggesting that it had successfully avoided liabilities and expenses it had expected the disaster to incur. The settlement is about one tenth of last year's $6bn in gross profits for the company: "a fine is a price."