A securities class action has been filed against of Norfolk Southern Corporation (NSC) on behalf of a class consisting of all persons and entities that purchased Norfolk Southern common stock between October 28, 2020 through March 3, 2023. This case has been filed in the USDC – S.D.OH.
Norfolk Southern is a rail transportation company that implemented a strategy known as “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (“PSR”), which is associated with hyper-efficient operational changes designed to increase revenues and decrease costs. Operational changes typically include reductions in staff; longer, heavier trains that can stretch up to miles in length; and tighter schedules.
The Norfolk Southern class action lawsuit alleges that defendants throughout the Class Period made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (i) Norfolk Southern’s PSR, including its use of longer, heavier trains staffed by fewer personnel, had led to Norfolk Southern suffering increased train derailments and a materially increased risk of future derailments; (ii) Norfolk Southern’s PSR was part of a culture of increased risk-taking at the expense of reasonable safety precautions due to Norfolk Southern’s near-term focus solely on profits; (iii) Norfolk Southern’s PSR rendered Norfolk Southern more vulnerable to train derailments and train derailments with potentially more severe human, financial, legal, and environmental consequences; (iv) Norfolk Southern’s capital spending and replacement programs were designed to prioritize profits over Norfolk Southern’s ability to provide safe, efficient, and reliable rail transportation services; (v) Norfolk Southern’s lobbying efforts had undermined Norfolk Southern’s ability to provide safe, efficient, and reliable rail transportation services; (vi) Norfolk Southern’s commitment to reducing operating expenses as part of its PSR goals undermined worker safety and Norfolk Southern’s purported “commitment to an injury-free workplace” because Norfolk Southern’s PSR plan prioritized reducing expenses through fewer personnel, longer trains, and less spending on safety training, technology, and equipment such as hot bearing wayside detectors (a/k/a “hotboxes”) and acoustic sensors; (vii) Norfolk Southern’s rail services were, as a result of its adoption of PSR principles, more susceptible to accidents that could cause serious economic and bodily harm to Norfolk Southern, its workers, its customers, third parties, and the environment; and (viii) Norfolk Southern had failed to put in place responsive practices and procedures to minimize the threat to communities in the event that these communities suffered the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous and toxic materials.
On February 3, 2023, eastbound Norfolk Southern Railway Company general merchandise freight train 32N derailed 38 railcars in East Palestine, Ohio, leaving behind what the Associated Press called “a mangled and charred mass of boxcars and flames.” The derailed equipment included 11 tank cars carrying hazardous materials that subsequently ignited, fueling fires that damaged an additional 12 non-derailed railcars.
On February 6, 2023, responders engaged in a controlled detonation and burn of the vinyl chloride, spewing massive volumes of chemicals into the vicinity. The chemicals released from the derailment entered the air and water of the surrounding residential areas, the closest of which were only 1,000 feet from the site of the accident. On this news, the price of Norfolk Southern stock fell.
Then, on February 8, 2023, after lifting a previously issued evacuation order, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine stated that Norfolk Southern was “the one who created the problem. It’s their liability. They’re the ones who ought to pay for it.” Following their return, numerous residents reported hazardous air quality and other health and environmental concerns. On this news, the price of Norfolk Southern stock again fell.
Thereafter, on February 13, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency stated that it had concluded that Norfolk Southern may be responsible for the cleanup costs of the derailment site or the costs incurred by the EPA for area cleanup. On this news, the price of Norfolk Southern stock once again fell.
Next, on February 15, 2023, reports emerged that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost was considering taking legal action against Norfolk Southern over the derailment. On this news, the price of Norfolk Southern stock again fell.
Finally, on March 6, 2023, Norfolk Southern announced a 6-part plan to improve operational safety that included, among other things, adding about 200 temperature sensors along its tracks where existing sensors are at least 15 miles apart, reviewing the temperature levels that set off alarms for train crews, and adding more acoustic sensors that analyze vibrations for potential problems. On this news, the price of Norfolk Southern stock fell, further damaging investors.