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Passenger paralyzed in fatal N.Y. train crash sues railroad

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A passenger who was left paralyzed in the deadly December derailment of a Metro-North commuter train in New York City filed a negligence lawsuit against the railroad on Tuesday seeking $100 million in damages.

Samuel Rivera, 39, was traveling to New York City with his teenage son on Sunday, December 1, when the train entered a curve at nearly three times the speed limit and ran off the tracks as it approached a station stop in the Bronx.

Four people were killed in the accident, and Rivera was one of more than 70 injured. His spinal cord was damaged, leaving him incontinent and quadriplegic, and his doctors think he is unlikely to ever regain the ability to move his limbs, said his attorney, Gregory Cannata.

"Trains aren't supposed to jump off the tracks," Cannata said in an interview about the negligence claim. "He's going to have extraordinary expenses for the rest of his life. He's going to have to have round-the-clock care. He's concerned about his financial future."

Rivera's 14-year-old son escaped with only bruises, but has been traumatized by witnessing his father's spine injury, Cannata said.

Rivera is a Metro-North employee based at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, although he was not working that day.

The commuter railroad has continued to pay his salary, as well as to support him in other ways, Cannata said. The railroad has paid Rivera's medical bills and is remodeling his home in Ossining, a town in Westchester County in New York, to serve his needs, Cannata said.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in the state Supreme Court in the Bronx.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that runs Metro-North, said the railroad has received the lawsuit but has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

Aaron Donovan, the MTA spokesman, said Rivera's is the seventh lawsuit resulting from the accident.

William Rockefeller, the engineer at the controls of the train when it derailed, has said he went into a trance-like daze shortly before the crash, a state he was jolted out of only when he realized the train was tipping off the tracks.

On Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board released documents saying Rockefeller had at the time suffered from undiagnosed sleep apnea, a disorder than can cause daytime drowsiness.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and Gunna Dickson)

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