BRIDGEPORT – Lina Pacelli will never ride the train again but the Derby woman hopes that one day she will be able to walk without constant pain.
On Friday, the 54-year-old Pacelli filed a $10 million federal lawsuit against Metro-North railroad for injuries she suffered when her derailed train was hit by another train here last May – the same day a Federal Railroad Administration report found the railroad “lacked a commitment to safety, delayed inspections and repairs.”
“There is a systematic failure in the way Metro-North is running the railway,” said Pacelli’s lawyer, Steven Errante, of New Haven. “And my client is a victim of that failure.”
On May 17, Pacelli was traveling home in the train from a work conference in New York City when her train derailed. It was then struck by a westbound train.
“Lina was thrown around by the collision and ended up on the floor,” Errante said. “She was later helped out of the train and taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a compressed fracture of the vertrabrae.”
He said she had surgery to fuse her spine but continues to have back pain and pain that runs down her legs, “that she will have to live with for the rest of her life.”
Even though she has returned to work, Errante said his client will never take the train again and even suffers anxiety traveling by car. “She has this overpowering fear that something bad is going to happen,” he said.
Dubbed “Operation Deep Dive,” the 60-day FRA investigation of Metro-North found the railroad, failed to adequately train workers and failed to provide sufficient time to make repairs when improvements were authorized.
“There was a clear overemphasis on on-time performance to the detriment of safety and ineffective and inadequate training,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo.
A broken rail joint found at the scene is believed to be the cause of the accident, which remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Three other federal lawsuits have been filed by other lawyers on behalf of train passengers injured in the crash and Errante said he will be filing another lawsuit next week on behalf of a New York woman.
Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman for Metro-North, declined comment on the lawsuit.
“We don’t comment on pending litigation,” she said.
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