25 tun­nel-smoke suits are dis­missed

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - THE DIS­TRICT BY MARTINE POW­ERS martine.pow­ers@wash­post.com

A fed­eral judge has agreed to al­low 25 plain­tiffs to with­draw law­suits filed against Metro and the Dis­trict of Columbia by vic­tims of the Jan­uary 2015 L’En­fant Plaza smoke dis­as­ter.

The dis­missals came at the re­quest the plain­tiffs — an in­di­ca­tion that those in­di­vid­u­als have likely reached a set­tle­ment with Metro and the Dis­trict out of court.

“I am bound by con­fi­den­tial­ity, and can­not com­ment fur­ther on the rea­son for the dis­missal,” said Pa­trick M. Regan, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing sev­eral of the in­di­vid­u­als who are su­ing Metro and the D.C. Fire Depart­ment, in­clud­ing the fam­ily mem­bers of Carol Glover, 61, who died while she was stuck on the smoke-filled train.

That case was not among those dis­missed Thurs­day in U.S. Dis­trict Court.

“The Glover case is go­ing for­ward full steam ahead,” Regan said Fri­day.

Metro and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s of­fice, along with Metro, de­clined to com­ment or of­fer an ex­pla­na­tion for the dis­missals, cit­ing the on­go­ing lit­i­ga­tion.

Barry Tre­bach, one of the pri­vate at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing Metro in the law­suit, also de­clined to com­ment.

Many of the two dozen cases dis­missed Thurs­day in­volved vic­tims whose in­juries were con­sid­ered to be less grave or fraught with fewer po­ten­tial long-term ef­fects than oth­ers in­volved in the dis­as­ter.

With 25 cases now dis­missed from the law­suit, ap­prox­i­mately 80 re­main. Rid­ers be­gan fil­ing law­suits just weeks af­ter the Jan. 12, 2015, in­ci­dent.

Dur­ing the in­ci­dent, a Yellow Line train stalled in­side a smoke­filled tun­nel close to the L’En­fant Plaza sta­tion with hun­dreds of com­muters aboard.

Mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tions and safety lapses in­volv­ing Metro staff and fire depart­ment of­fi­cials de­layed the emer­gency re­sponse. Rid­ers were trapped on the train for about a half-hour be­fore they be­gan to be es­corted off the rail cars and back to the sta­tion, a few hun­dred feet away.

By that time, Glover had lost con­scious­ness. Other pas­sen­gers ad­min­is­tered CPR un­til fire res­cue ar­rived. Glover later died of smoke-re­lated res­pi­ra­tory fail­ure. More than 80 other peo­ple were hos­pi­tal­ized with smoke-re­lated in­juries.

In le­gal com­plaints filed since the smoke in­ci­dent, rid­ers have ar­gued that Metro cre­ated un­safe con­di­tions for them in the sub­way tun­nel and that emer­gency re­spon­ders should have be­gun the evac­u­a­tion much more quickly.

Metro and the Dis­trict have also sought to pin the blame on each other.

In Jan­uary, Metro filed a mo­tion to dis­miss the law­suit as well as a cross-claim ar­gu­ing that the D.C. Fire Depart­ment should bear exclusive re­spon­si­bil­ity for what hap­pened to rid­ers. Weeks later, at­tor­neys for the Dis­trict re­turned with their own re­sponse, re­ject­ing Metro’s ac­cu­sa­tions.

Nei­ther en­tity has been granted its mo­tion to dis­miss the case.

As the law­suit moves for­ward for Glover’s fam­ily and scores of oth­ers, Regan said they await fur­ther in­for­ma­tion from Metro about the in­ci­dent.

“We’re work­ing with Metro in terms of get­ting var­i­ous ma­te­ri­als,” Regan said.

It will still be a while be­fore the case goes to trial. Regan said he an­tic­i­pates that a court date will be sched­uled for some­time in fall 2018.

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