Waverly families file lawsuit against railroad company
News4 Investigates uncovered breach beneath CSX Railroad track likely caused the deadly flooding
WAVERLY, Tenn. (WSMV) - Since the flood last August, Michelle Feliciano is haunted by her 7-yeaer-old daughter’s final words.
“I constantly remember hearing my daughter’s last call out for me, and I couldn’t get her,” Feliciano said.
Feliciano joined nine other families in announced they’re now suing CSX Transportation and a landowner, saying the surge of water that killed their loved ones wasn’t an act of nature.
“This was a man-made tidal wave. That’s right – a man-made tidal wave – changing the lives of everyone forever,” attorney Peter Flowers said.
The lawsuit followed a series of News4 Investigations where drone footage revealed how water burst through raised earth after building up behind CSX railroad tracks, acting as a kind of levee.
This lawsuit claims the railroad failed to clear debris from its culvert at Trace Creek, essentially clogging the creek and backup up behind the tracks, and when the water burst through, sent a torrent of water rushing into the town.
“We do believe that there was negligence and we do believe this was preventable,” attorney Timothy Potter said.
In a statement to News4 Investigations, CSX Transportation wrote in part, “CSX track and related infrastructure is maintained and regularly inspected in accordance with CSX policies.”
“Our most heartfelt thoughts are with the families whose lives were tragically impacted by this historic weather event. While we can’t comment on any specific allegations of the lawsuit, it is important to point out that the significant rain storm in August of 2021 that resulted in the catastrophic flooding of many communities in Middle Tennessee, including Waverly, was an unprecedented and extraordinary event. CSX track and related infrastructure is maintained and regularly inspected in accordance with CSX policies, which meet or exceed federal regulations.”
This isn’t the only time CSX has been criticized for creating flooding. In New York state you can see the debris that’s washed up behind a CSX bridge, prompting criticism from state officials that it’s partly to blame for flooding in that region.
In Waverly, the lawsuit seeks $450 million in damages.
“It’s about justice. What we’re really seeking here is justice,” Flowers said.
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