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87 D.C. Transit Passengers Sue Over Subway Fire Accident

Updated on January 16, 2016

Washington, D.C. Transit Agency Sued Over Subway Accident

Washington, D.C.'s transit agency is being sued by passengers who were trapped in a subway station during a fire.
Washington, D.C.'s transit agency is being sued by passengers who were trapped in a subway station during a fire. | Source

D.C. Transit Agency Accused of Negligence After Smoke Fills Subway Station

Eighty-seven Washington, D.C. Metro passengers who were trapped in smoke-filled subway cars last January sued the transit agency this week.

They claim to suffer from asthma, anxiety and stress disorder after short-circuiting cables engulfed the L’Enfant Plaza station of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

A 61-year-old grandmother died from smoke inhalation and 80 others were hospitalized.

Lawyers representing the passengers said they filed the lawsuits in D.C. Superior Court after failing to reach out-of-court settlements with Metro.

A six-car Yellow Line train stalled in the station during the Jan. 12, 2015 electrical malfunction. About 250 passengers were trapped inside for 30 minutes until rescuers arrived.

Attorney Jerry Spitz of Ashcraft & Gerel said the lawsuits could make Metro more proactive in preventing similar accidents.

The lawsuit accuses Metro of negligence, saying the electrical connections associated with the power supply to the third rail of the Metro track were improperly constructed, installed, inspected, maintained, and/or repaired and/or otherwise defective, allowing contaminants and/or moisture and/or other substances to enter the electrical components. This led to short circuiting which caused the electrical arcing event on January 12, 2015.

The National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the accident but is expected to issue a report in the spring. Metro officials are withholding comment until the report is released.

Among the information expected to be mentioned in the report is the make-up of chemicals released by heat from the short-circuit. The plaintiffs’ lawyers say they cannot assess the health damage to their clients until they know the kind of noxious fumes the passengers inhaled.

Their lawyers blamed Metro during a National Press Conference media event this week for the failed out-of-court negotiations, which included not disclosing potentially harmful chemicals from the accident.

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