Another Tragedy in the DC Metro

As the news reports of the horrific incident on Monday, January 12th near the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station continue to trickle out, it is important for the victims and their families to focus on grieving and healing.

However, as the victims’ thoughts start to turn to investigation and possible legal action arising from Monday’s incident, it is important to remember some of the lessons learned from the June 2009 Red Line Metro crash, that claimed the lives of 9 people and that injured a score more. These lessons include:

1.  Metro has legal immunity protecting it from a number of legal claims.

One thing that the victims and their families must know is that Metro, as a quasi-governmental agency, enjoys immunity from a number of legal claims. What this means is that Metro is protected by law from claims that a victim could make against a typical defendant. Navigating the complex web of legal immunity can be tricky, and should be handled by experienced counsel.

2.  Metro vigorously defends itself.

Metro has a well-deserved reputation for vigorously defending itself for any and all legal claims brought against it. While this tragedy may seem like a “no-brainer” in terms of Metro being responsible, it is almost certain that Metro will hire excellent counsel, and will mount a vigorous defense against any claims arising from this January 12th incident.

3.  Preliminary reports point to an equipment failure involving electrical arcing.

While the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has not released a definitive report of what occurred, preliminary indications are that this incident occurred as a result of an electrical “arcing” incident on the third rail of the Metro track south of the L’Enfant Plaza station. Since this incident involves electrical equipment, just as the June 2009 Red Line crash did, Metro may well assert claims that it is the manufacturers of the equipment that are to blame. This could make what seems like a very straightforward case against Metro become very complicated.

4.  DC’s emergency response must be examined.

Further complicating these potential claims are the actions of DC’s first responders, including the fire and rescue operations. Preliminary reports indicate that DC firefighters arrived on the scene in a timely fashion, but did not enter the tunnels for a substantial amount of time. If Metro attempts to shift fault to DC for an inadequate emergency response, this would raise a host of additional legal issues, as bringing a claim against DC requires several additional steps, including filing a legal notice of one’s intention to file a claim.

These are just a few of the many complex legal issues facing the victims and their families, and emphasizes the need to consult with experienced counsel about potential claims.

The Lietz Law Firm successfully represented clients in connection with the June 2009 Metrorail crash. We would be happy to discuss the various legal issues with you.