Railway Disaster Lawsuits Are Dropped
Twenty five plaintiffs have requested that their lawsuits filed filed against Metro and the District of Columbia regarding the January 12, 2015, L’Enfant Plaza smoke disaster that left one woman dead be dropped. The request likely means that a settlement is pending, according to legal experts, however, this information cannot yet be released. “I am bound by confidentiality, and cannot comment further on the reason for the dismissal,” said Patrick M. Regan, an attorney who has been tasked with representing several of the individuals still pursuing litigation against Metro and the D.C. Fire Department. However, a pending settlement will be announced shortly if this is indeed the case. Metro and the fire department have also pursued litigation against each other, blaming one another for the disaster.
Many of the two dozen cases dismissed Thursday involved victims whose injuries were considered to have sustained not-so-serious injuries or who will suffer few potential long-term side effects. The cases still being pursued are for victims and their families who were not so lucky. On that infamous day in January, a Yellow Line train stalled inside a smoke filled tunnel close to the L’Enfant Plaza station with hundreds of commuters aboard. Emergency responders could not get to the victims in time due to miscommunication and safety lapses among Metro staff members which left riders trapped on the rails for approximately a half-hour before they were able to begin escorting them back to the station, which was only a few hundred feet away. Some of the passengers received CPR, but it was too late. Carol Glover, one of the passengers riding that day, would later die of of smoke related respiratory failure. Train riders began filing lawsuits just weeks after the incident, most claiming that Metro provided unsafe conditions for them in the subway tunnel and that emergency responders should have arrived much sooner.
Metro filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit as well as a claim arguing that the D.C. Fire Department should be solely responsible for what happened to its riders. In its filing, Metro alleged, “Emergency responders “delayed [their] response, resulting in a substantially longer exposure to smoke by passengers on Train 302, thereby exacerbating the nature and extent of each passenger’s injuries.” The company also stated ” The communication gap stalled the process of shutting down the third-rail so that passengers could be evacuated more quickly.” But the accusations were rejected by attorneys for the District, citing Metro’s sole responsibility. Both had their motions denied. Now, Metro’s attorneys are arguing if the agency is found responsible for Glover’s death or any of the injuries that occurred that day, the District of Columbia should also be found equally at fault and help the transit company pay the victims. As far as the individual cases left open, Regan said, “We’re working with Metro in terms of getting various materials.” He adds that it will still be awhile before they are able to go to trial. He stated he anticipated a court date will be scheduled for sometime in fall 2018. With the closing of 25 cases perhaps pending settlement, approximately 80 additional cases remain open.