On June 22, 2009 the deadliest crash in the 33 year history of the Metro Transit system occurred between Fort Totten and Takoma Park Stations on the Red Line. 9 people were killed and approximately 80 people were injured.
The trains involved in the crash were amongst the oldest in the Metro system they were purchased between 1974 and 1978. The Metro System is owned and operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority which is also known as WMATA. Our lawyers have litigated dozens of cases against Metro and we are experienced in handling claims against them.
The train was in automatic mode at the time of the crash. The crash was the result of operator negligence, computer failure, failure of Metro’s automated system and most appallingly, the fact that WMATA left its trains in service after federal regulators had told them that their trains were too old and should be taken out of service. Preliminary reports also indicate that the trains involved were two months overdue for their scheduled maintenance for certain braking components. The NTSB is investigating this terrible incident and will prepare a report relating to the cause of the crash.
From our experience in handling legal cases against Metro and WMATA, we know that it is important that they preserve the “RECAP” records and the black box for each train. Our Washington D.C. and Maryland Trial Lawyers believe that the legal theories that will be pursued against WMATA include “Negligence,” “Product Liability,” “Strict Liability” and “Punitive Damages.” Legally, WMATA is a “common carrier” and therefore the law imposes an obligation on them to use ordinary care in carrying its passengers. Considering the gross negligence that has come to light, it appears that those injured may be entitled to punitive damages.
Punitive damages are available under D.C. law when the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing evidence that WMATA or Metro officials acted with evil motive, actual malice, deliberate violence, with intent to injure or in willful disregard of the injured person’s rights; and that the conduct was outrageous, grossly fraudulent, or reckless towards the safety of the plaintiff. The Plaintiff also needs to establish that the officers, directors and managing agents of Metro and/or WMATA participated in the act or approved or ratified the wrongful conduct before it was done. It has been reported that the lead car of the moving train “telescoped” when it struck the stationary train, and that the stationary train acted as a wedge. Therefore, the striking train’s underframe was compressed to about 1/3 of its size. Telescoping was also a factor in a 1996 deadly Metrorail crash, and a 2004 Woodley Park accident.
Our lawyers intend to hold Metro accountable for this terrible crash, and look forward to aggressively pursuing cases on behalf of the victims of WMATA’s negligence. In previous rail car train accidents the NTSB concluded that the 1000 series Metro cars may be more susceptible to telescoping. If you or a loved one were injured or killed in this terrible crash, call us so that we can fight to protect your rights.