Metrolink is suing the South Korean manufacturer of its passenger "cab cars," like the one that derailed near Oxnard last year, alleging they had faulty parts that failed to keep trains on the track in an accident.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit was filed Friday against Hyundai Rotem Co., part of the Hyundai Motor Group It seeks unspecified damages. A Hyundai Rotem representative could not be immediately reached for comment on the complaint, which alleges breach of contract and breach of warranty.
According to the lawsuit, in 2005 Metrolink issued a "request for proposal" for railcars with state-of-the-art technology designed to protect passengers if a collision occurred. Three major manufacturers responded, including Hyundai Rotem, the suit states.
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"Hyundai aggressively pursued the contract, submitting the lowest bid and claiming to be a world leader in safety technology for railcars," the suit states. "Unfortunately, Hyundai was awarded the contract, based in large part on its purported experience and expertise in designing and manufacturing safe railcars."
The 2006 contract between Metrolink and Hyundai Rotem called for the delivery of 54 passenger cars and 34 cab cars at a cost of almost $306 million, the suit states. Metrolink ultimately bought 57 cab cars, the suit states.
"Despite its claimed expertise in designing and manufacturing rail cars, Hyundai struggled from the outset with the design and manufacturing of the cars for Metrolink and its production schedule was constantly late," the suit states.
Metrolink received the last car in April 2014, the suit states.
Cab cars are run by engineers and located in the front of the trains when they are being pushed by the locomotive from the rear. The Hyundai Rotem cab cars were equipped on their front ends with "pilots," which are referred to in lay terms as "plows" or "cow catchers," the suit states. The pilots are supposed to prevent track debris from getting under the train's wheels and causing it to derail, the suit states.
"Unfortunately, the carbody weldments and pilot assemblies on the Hyundai cab cars were defective -- they did not meet the specifications in the contract and did not adequately protect the trains from derailing," the suit states.
The Feb. 24, 2015, accident in Oxnard occurred when a Metrolink cab car collided with a utility truck stopped on the tracks, the suit states. The pilot on the cab car broke off and the car derailed, the suit states.
The crash injured 31 passengers and two crew members. The engineer, Glenn Steele, later died of his injuries.
An inspection of the cab car showed that four of the five welds on the carbody weldments for the pilot assembly "exhibited poor fusion and lack of penetration -- in other words, they did not securely attach the brackets to the carbody," according to the lawsuit.
The defects in the welds were not visible until the Oxnard accident and Metrolink could not have found out about them before the collision, the suit states.
Subsequent inspections of nearly every other Hyundai Rotem cab car provided to Metrolink showed similar problems, the suit alleges.
Metrolink sent Hyundai letters in September 2015 concerning the warranty provisions of the contract and also notified the company that the rail authority would be leasing freight train engines at a cost of about $20 million "as cover for the defective pilots," the suit states.