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| Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn

Anyone who lives in the Washington DC area knows that the last few years have not been a good time for Metro. The DC area subway system, started in the mid 1970s and once considered a great public transportation success, is now mired in serious problems, costs overruns, lawsuits and more.

Media reports tell us that the transit agency failed to heed many warnings over the years that Metro’s aging equipment and poor culture of safety would lead to breakdowns, injuries and sometimes even deaths.


For decades, there have been many warnings from federal experts, business groups and private transit organizations that pointed to many red flags in the system.

According to a recent Washington Post article, 14 safety reports were reviewed by the newspaper, and it was found repeatedly that Metro did not have a ‘robust institutional safety consciousness, its maintenance regime was nearly negligent, and the system needed a better system of financing.’

In the last 15 months alone, the following calamities have befallen Metro and its users:

  • Dozens of passengers were sickened and one died when a metro tunnel filled with smoke
  • A Metro power plant went out of service and canceled trains on some lines for weeks
  • Major parts of Metro were shut down for hours due to a derailment that injured passengers; a track defect was to blame that should have been fixed weeks earlier.
  • On March 16, 2016, the ENTIRE system was closed for an emergency inspection and repairs.

Just last weekend, a Red Line track fire required a train to be evacuated, and passengers were sickened and exposed to thick smoke.

The system also has relied heavily on computer-driving trains, which has led to calamities. On June 22, 2009, the automated system broke down, and the computer did not register that an idle train was parked on an active track. So the approaching train did not have its brakes applied. The ensuring rear end train crash killed eight passengers and the train operator.

Many of the safety problems have led to personal injury lawsuits. After the above incident where a metro tunnel filled with smoke, 87 people filed lawsuits seeking compensation for their injuries. Some of the plaintiffs stated that they had developed post traumatic stress disorder as well as respiratory problems. And the family of the woman who died in that incident has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Any regular Metro rider who every experiences a safety related problem that results in an injury should remember that Metro is obligated to provide you with a safe riding experience. When they fail to do so, there are legal remedies available to you.

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