Lawyers for victims of the May 3 Metro disaster in Mexico City that left 26 people dead will seek significantly larger compensation payments for their clients than what’s being offered.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum announced May 8 that families of people who died in the accident caused by the collapse of an overpass on Line 12 would receive a total of 700,000 pesos (US $35,000): 650,000 pesos from Metro operator STC and 50,000 pesos from the Mexico City government.
People injured in the crash – which preliminary investigation results indicate was caused by construction flaws — will receive just 10,000 pesos (US $500), Sheinbaum said.
Cristopher Estupiñán, a lawyer with the Nuevo León law firm Carbino Legal, said he and The Webster Law Firm of Houston, Texas, will seek much larger payouts for their clients. Estupiñán told the newspaper El País that the compensation on offer was a “joke.”
“It’s time for the richest business people to assume their responsibility for the first time in the history of the country,” he said.
Carso Infrastructure and Construction, owned by billionaire businessman Carlos Slim, was involved in the construction of Line 12, which opened in 2012.
“We will seek a payment of tens if not hundreds of millions of pesos for each victim of the Line 12 [disaster],” Estupiñán said.
“It’s a joke for the families; don’t come and tell us that 650,000 pesos is comprehensive compensation.”
The lawyer also said that victims’ families have been pressured to sign a document accepting a payment of that size and agreeing not to seek additional compensation. In addition, according to a report by the newspaper El Financiero, the Metro operator told families that if they reveal the conditions of the agreement they could face legal action and penalties themselves.
“… They’re taking advantage of the vulnerability of the victims,” Estupiñán said, adding that the aim of the STC is to ensure that it doesn’t have to make any future compensation payments.
“… What we’re demanding of the construction consortium [which also included French company Alstom and Mexican firm ICA] is for it to assume the civil responsibility of its negligence and to deliver compensation that is fair and consistent with the profits it obtained from this project,” he said.
Carbino Legal and The Webster Law Firm are preparing a civil case against the companies in the United States that is likely to be presented in August after Norwegian company DNV — contracted by the Mexico City government to conduct an independent inquiry into the causes of the crash — has published its final results.
Estupiñán said that legal action is being pursued in the United States because the three companies have offices there. He also said that the U.S. legal system is not susceptible to influence and outside pressure.
“[The United States] has historically handed down punishments without fear and without caring who is responsible,” he said.
Legal action in the United States and Mexico could last years, Estupiñán said, asserting that “a David and Goliath battle” looms. Carbino Legal is set to initiate criminal and administrative action against those responsible for the collapse of the overpass. Miguel Alcalde, a partner with the firm, said he is convinced that the Mexico City government is partially to blame.
“We’re convinced that there was irregular activity on the part of the government because it had the obligation to guarantee that the construction complied with regulations, to carry out certifications, to verify maintenance and to review [the line] continuously,” he told the newspaper Reforma.
“The imperative thing is for the government to be condemned administratively, for officials to be sanctioned,” Alcalde said, adding that those directly responsible for the negligence that caused the overpass to collapse must face criminal penalties.
President López Obrador on Wednesday accused lawyers for the victims of seeking to profit from “human pain.”
“…They’re [only] interested in money, they’re trying to extract more,” he told reporters at his regular news conference.
Alcalde countered that his law firm is only seeking justice for the victims and to avoid any similar tragedy in the future.
The president’s discourse is an attempt to intimidate the victims, he said, “because the government is saying that they are establishing how much [compensation] should be given when it’s up to the courts to decide.”
Carbino Legal said in a statement that López Obrador’s remarks were seeking to discredit its work “without any proof.”
“Our intervention in this case is not a question of ‘profit.’ … Rather it’s a campaign for justice and truth that transcends any personal interest. … We have a historical opportunity to achieve true compensation for damage caused by negligent and generalized collusion that exists in public projects in our country.”