By: Allan M. Siegel
As you will recall, on January 12, 2015, a Metro train near the L’Enfant
Plaza station became stuck on the tracks underground. As the train sat,
with passengers trapped inside, the tunnel and the passenger cars began
filling with noxious smoke. One woman died of a heart attack and dozens
more were potentially injured.
Later in 2015, numerous victims (including the estate of the person who
died) filed a large lawsuit against Metro, alleging that its negligence
led to the disaster. However, earlier this month, Metro filed two court
documents in an attempt to avoid being held liable for the smoke incident.
First, Metro filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In the motion, Metro
alleges that it enjoys “sovereign immunity” against the lawsuit.
Metro’s enacting charter specifies that the agency cannot be held
liable by a court, for performing “government” functions,
which basically means that it cannot be held liable for setting broad
policies that determine how the train system is operated.
Furthermore, Metro also filed another document, called a cross-claim, alleging
that one of the other defendants in the lawsuit – the District of
Columbia – is really to blame. Specifically, Metro claims that the
emergency response by the District’s fire department was inadequate,
and was the cause of the injuries on that day.
Many may remember that Metro has a long standing history of trying to avoid
responsibility for its negligence. Metro refused to initially take responsibility
for the Fort Totten Red Line crash, causing years of dragged out litigation,
and causing more suffering to the victims and their families. Chaikin,
Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. represented the families of one
of the deceased victims of the Fort Totten crash, and was on the Plaintiff’s
steering committee, which ensured that Metro did not escape its responsibilities.
We also represent many victims of the Yellow Line incident smoke incident,
and will persevere to ensure Metro is held fully accountable.