SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The families of nine people killed last year by a co-worker at a California rail yard will receive $8 million to settle damage claims filed last November, officials said.
The agreement was reached with the families of eight of the nine people killed May 26, 2021, at a San Jose rail yard by a co-worker who later took his own life, the Valley Transportation Authority announced Thursday, Mercury News reported.
Family members say there is still no response from VTA management or the main union as to why Sam Cassidy, who has been the subject of four conduct inquiries at work, was kept at work. Investigations by the VTA and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department have yielded no public results.
“Some families don’t know if they want more money or if they want more excuses from them,” said Jose Hernandez, whose 39-year-old son Jose Dejesus Hernandez III dreamed of leaving the VTA and start his own auto repair business. “It’s about accepting responsibility, and VTA will never admit they did anything wrong.”
Lawyers who represented the eight families will receive about 40% of the settlement in fees, according to two people familiar with the agreement, the newspaper reported. The rest will be divided equally between them. The families have agreed to drop the wrongful death lawsuits against VTA, under the terms of the settlement.
The families of the victims have already received one year of their loved one’s salary and workers’ compensation death benefits. The agency also agreed to pay $4.9 million in retirement benefits in monthly installments totaling $3,000 or more.
Gary Gwilliam, who represented the eight families, said the number of settlements remained low because victims’ families had limited options to sue the VTA outside of the workers’ compensation process.
The family of 63-year-old Lars Kepler Lane has not settled with the VTA. Their attorney, Daniel Schaar, said they “didn’t feel the offer made to the Lane family was good enough.”