25 tunnel-smoke suits are dismissed
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.