Insights & Events

Extraordinarily Knowledgeable

Firm client Norfolk Southern Corporation reaches favorable agreement with Avondale Mills to settle claims from Graniteville accident.

news | July 2, 2008

In April, 2008, four weeks into an anticipated three month trial, Norfolk Southern railroad and Avondale Mills agreed to settle a lawsuit arising from the January 6, 2005 train derailment in Graniteville, South Carolina.  The confidential settlement concluded the largest single tort case in South Carolina history and one of the largest tort cases recently tried in the United States.  Avondale Mills v. Norfolk Southern, Civ No. 1:05-2817-MBS (D.S.C. 2005).

The lawsuit arose from the train derailment and resulting chlorine gas release.  Plaintiff Avondale claimed that the chlorine release caused corrosion damage to its textile plants in Graniteville.  Avondale, which had plants in three states, terminated all of its operations a year and a half after the derailment.  Avondale, and its property insurance carrier, Factory Mutual, sought to recover over $450 million in compensatory damages for remediation costs, business interruption, and business valuation, as well as punitive damages.

Avondale first brought suit in South Carolina state court, but Norfolk Southern removed the case to federal court and defeated various efforts to return the case to state court.  Norfolk Southern also prevailed on numerous significant pre-trial motions, including Daubert motions excluding or limiting expert testimony of certain plaintiffs’ experts. After a day of jury selection from a venire panel of 100, the trial began on March 10, 2008.  After extensive cross-examinations of plaintiffs’ fact and expert witnesses, the case settled on April 4, 2008.

Hollingsworth LLP served as lead trial counsel for Norfolk Southern.