City of Portland Sues Streetcar Manufacturer Over Loose Screw

The lawsuit stems from a 2018 crash.

Portland Streetcar (Rachel Renee Levasseur)

The city of Portland sued Clackamas streetcar manufacturer Vigor Works LLC this week, roughly five years after one of its streetcars derailed at the corner of Southeast Taylor Street and Grand Avenue.

On May 24, 2018, the Portland streetcar derailed, hitting three automobiles and causing a traffic jam that continued for much of the day. The city launched an investigation—and now claims that a screw in the throttle popped loose and led to the derailment by jamming the throttle and preventing braking. The city says the defect was the result of a missing washer around the screw.

Following the incident, the city says it also investigated other Portland streetcars with the same throttle assembly and found loose screws and missing washers, leading it to decommission any streetcars with the faulty assembly.

In the lawsuit, filed in the Multnomah County Circuit Court on May 22, the city says Vigor Works delivered a faulty product, didn’t fulfill the warranty in its contract, and was liable for the 2018 derailment. The city is seeking $400,000.

Vigor Works declined to comment on pending litigation.

The city of Portland purchased the streetcar at issue—and five others—from Oregon Iron Works for $20 million in 2009. The agreement was later amended to five streetcars for $19.5 million. Oregon Iron Works was acquired in 2014 by Vigor Industries LLC (also known as Vigor Works), which took over the contract and delivered the streetcar in question in June 2015.

The city says the contract makes clear that Vigor Works is responsible for the delivery of a functioning streetcar. But the company was allowed to subcontract parts of the assembly. The throttle in question was produced by the German company W. Gessmann GmbH.

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