Insurer Seeks Damages Over Baltimore Orioles’ Loss

July 15, 2004

The Connecticut-based insurer for the Baltimore Orioles is attempting to recover more than $1 million in damages after a train derailment and tunnel fire forced city officials to cancel three home games in July 2001.

The Hartford Casualty Insurance Co. earlier this week sued CSX Transportation Inc. and the city of Baltimore for the loss of revenue from ticket and concession sales.

The suit charges CSX with negligence in the inspection and maintenance of the company’s tracks and the tunnel. It charges the city with negligence in the inspection and maintenance of municipal water lines in and around the tunnel. Both lapses, the insurance company contends, contributed to the accident.

Eleven cars of a 60-car train, including tankers containing toxic acids, derailed inside the Howard Street tunnel, which runs under the city’s central business district. The resulting chemical fire shut down the city for several days, causing millions of dollars in damages to downtown businesses and to the city, which paid overtime for emergency crews and cleanup.

The National Transportation Safety Board has yet to report on a cause of the accident. One issue in contention is whether water and debris from a 40-inch water main caused the accident — as CSX contends — or was a result of the accident, which is alleged by the city.

The city and the rail company stuck to their respective positions in response to the insurance company’s suit.

“They’ve got it about half right,” City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler III said, explaining that the city agrees with the Hartford’s contention that CSX bears responsibility for the tunnel fire. “Here is the view we share,” he said.

CSX spokeswoman Misty J. Skipper said the company will review the complaint and plans to defend it vigorously.

“To date,” Skipper said, “we have not seen evidence of a rail-related cause of the derailment.”

Also, the insurer for the Maryland Institute College of Art, which sits at the north end of the 1.7 mile tunnel, sued to recover more than $100,000 in damages as a result of the accident.

The Hartford Insurance Co. of the Midwest sued CSX and the city to recover losses as a result of smoke damage.

Both complaints claim the three-day fire started when a tanker car or cars carrying “tripropylene, hydrochloric acid and/or other hazardous materials” were caused to release those materials, igniting “other combustible materials” CSX allegedly was transporting.

The extreme heat in the tunnel then wreaked havoc on Baltimore’s water supply system in the area, causing cast iron water mains and pipes to burst, disrupting water service and flooding area businesses.

Residents and other area businesses also have sued CSX and the city for damages related to the accident.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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