Updated--Avondale Mills, Norfolk Southern in court

By: Associated Press/Tom Campbell
By: Associated Press/Tom Campbell

March 10, 2008

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- A textile company that blames its closure on a 2005 train wreck and toxic chemical spill in Aiken County is in federal court today with its lawsuit against the railroad company.

Avondale Mills closed in 2006, citing increased competition and the train wreck as reasons for closing the operations in Graniteville. It contends Norfolk Southern was negligent in the crash.

Nine people died after a Norfolk Southern train plowed into parked railroad cars on a side track, causing a toxic cloud of chlorine gas to spread over the town and the Avondale Mills plants. Six of the people who died worked for Avondale Mills. After the wreck, the mill laid off thousands of workers and spent more than $40 million on cleaning and repairs.

In opening statements, an attorney for Avondale asked for $420 million in damages from the railroad, claiming it was negligent.

Attorneys for Norfolk Southern argued they shouldn't be blamed for the
company closing, in part because some of the corrosion on plant equipment was present before the crash.

The civil trial before U.S. District Judge Margaret Seymoure could last up to three months.

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