Lawyers for Lac-Mégantic victims pursue CP Rail

In legal documents, lawyers representing victims of the disaster in Lac-Mégantic allege Canadian Pacific Railway bears some of the responsibility for the deadly derailment.

Quebec minister calls Canadian Pacific's refusal to step up a 'bad public relations move'

CP Rail has rejected an order from the Quebec government to help pay for the cleanup of the Lac-Mégantic train derailment. (Radio-Canada)

Lawyers representing victims of the rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic are now going after Canadian Pacific Railway.  

In legal documents filed late Thursday, lawyers involved in the class-action suits allege CP bears some of the responsibility for the deadly derailment. 

Jeff Orenstein, one of the lawyers representing survivors of the disaster, said CP turned a blind eye to the shortcomings of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway when it subcontracted the transportation of highly explosive material to the smaller carrier.

"They were also aware, or should have been aware, of MM&A's poor safety record, as well as their inadequate insurance coverage," Orenstein said.

The court documents state that CP permitted a dangerous situation to exist, and with reasonable effort it could have prevented or limited the scope of the deadly derailment.

By adding CP to the list of potential targets, class action lawyers are seeking to increase the amount of a potential settlement, for while MM&A is bankrupt and underinsured, CP has deep pockets.

CP has declined to comment on the latest salvo against it.

CP rejects Quebec government order

On Thursday, the railway said it has no financial duty for the Lac-Megantic rail disaster, rejecting a Quebec government demand that it help pay for the cleanup.

Quebec Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet says citizens are going to judge these companies that refuse a government order to help pay for the cleanup.

On Wednesday, Quebec added CP to a list of defendants that it says are financially responsible for a cleanup estimated at $200 million, according to bankruptcy documents filed by MM&A earlier this month.

Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet reacted quickly, saying a minister does not ask for, or suggest, compensation, "he orders it."

"I'm not surprised," Blanchet said of CP's response, in an interview on Radio-Canada on Friday. "I'm disappointed. But it was expected."

"I said from the start, did all those companies involved, all those responsible, step forward to say, 'We're going to fix this. We're going to make sure things are cleaned up?'"

Blanchet said CP's dismissal of the province's demand is a "bad public relations move."

"Citizens are going to judge these companies," he said.

with files from the Canadian Press