The families of nine people killed last year by a co-worker at a California rail yard will receive $8 million to settle damage claims filed last November, officials said.
The agreement was reached with the families of eight of the nine people killed on May 26, 2021, at a San Jose rail yard by a colleague who then killed himself, the Valley Transportation Authority announced Thursday, the Mercury News reported.
Family members say there still are no answers from VTA management or the main union as to why Sam Cassidy, who was the subject of four investigations into his workplace conduct, was kept on the job. Investigations by the VTA and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s department have yielded no public results.
“Some of the families, they don’t know if they want more money or they want more apologies from them,” said Jose Hernandez, whose 39-year-old son, Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, dreamed of leaving the VTA and starting his own auto repair business. “It’s about accepting responsibility, and VTA will never admit that they did something wrong.”
Attorneys who represented the eight families will collect about 40% of the settlement in fees, according to two people familiar with the agreement, the newspaper reported. The rest will be split evenly among them. The families agreed to withdraw wrongful death lawsuits against VTA, according to the terms of the settlement.
Victims’ families have previously received one year of their loved one’s salary and workers’ compensation death benefits. The agency also agreed to pay $4.9 million in retirement benefits in the form of monthly payments totaling $3,000 or more.
Gary Gwilliam, who represented the eight families, said the settlement number remains low because victims’ families had limited options to sue the VTA outside the workers’ compensation process.
The family of Lars Kepler Lane, 63, has not settled with the VTA. Their attorney, Daniel Schaar, said they “did not feel that the offer made to the Lane family was sufficient.”
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