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Heck Applauds Ban on Amtrak Mandatory Arbitration in 'moving America Forward Act'

Press Release

Date: July 1, 2020
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Transportation

Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the Moving America Forward Act, which includes a provision banning Amtrak from mandatory arbitration with its passengers. Congressman Denny Heck (WA-10) and Congressman Conor Lamb (PA-17) first introduced this provision in H.R. 6101, the Ending Passenger Rail Forced Arbitration Act. A companion bill, S. 3400, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

"Victims of train derailments deserve their day in court, should they choose it. Airlines are forbidden from using mandatory arbitration with their passengers--America's rail passengers deserve the same protections," said Heck. "The Moving America Forward Act corrects a change that should never have been made in the first place, and I thank Congressman Lamb and Chairman DeFazio for their leadership."

On January 1, 2019, Amtrak revised its contract of carriage, requiring customers to resolve any legal action against the company through mandatory arbitration. This requirement waived passengers' right to sue or join others in a class action against Amtrak. Neither Congress nor other stakeholders were consulted before this change occurred.

Prior to this anti-consumer change, Amtrak paid hundreds of millions of dollars to victims due to legal action following rail accidents. In 2016, Amtrak paid a $256 million settlement to the families of those impacted by the 2015 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania derailment, which killed eight and injured more than 200. Since last year, juries have ordered Amtrak to pay $32 million in damages to victims injured in the December 18, 2017 DuPont, Washington derailment.

The DuPont derailment occurred in Washington's 10th Congressional District, represented in the U.S. House by Congressman Denny Heck.