Maryland that expressly authorizes the award of punitive damages against WMATA. Thus, there has been no waiver of immunity with respect to punitive damages.
Nonetheless, in dicta, the D.C. Court of Appeals left open the possibility of an exception to this rule, suggesting that, even in the absence of a statute, the award of punitive damages against the District of Columbia might be appropriate under "extraordinary circumstances." Smith, 336 A.2d at 832. Plaintiff relies on this dicta, arguing that the extraordinary circumstances in this case require WMATA to be subjected to liability for punitive damages. Plaintiff alleges that the gross negligence amounting to outrageous conduct on the part of WMATA warrants the survival of her claim for punitive damages. Plaintiff alleges that WMATA negligently failed to install an essential piece of equipment in the fluorescent light case and failed to inspect the light cases to ensure that their installation and grounding were proper. Additionally, plaintiff cites an incident that took place on the same escalator less than a month before the accident giving rise to this suit. On June 9, 1986, a patron reported receiving a "jolt" while riding the same escalator as plaintiff's decedent. Plaintiff alleges that WMATA's failure to follow up its repair request to Westinghouse after the June 9, 1986 incident rises to the level of a conscious disregard for the safety of its patrons. For all of these reasons, plaintiff urges the Court to find extraordinary circumstances mandating that the claim for punitive damages remain in the case.
Subsequent cases to Smith have not borne out examples of "extraordinary circumstances" under which the District of Columbia or its instrumentalities could be subjected to liability for punitive damages. Indeed, no court has found extraordinary circumstances such that WMATA would be subjected to liability for punitive damages.
This Court will not create a baseline definition of the term which was formulated in dicta. Even if the term "extraordinary circumstances" were binding, this case does not present extraordinary circumstances. Nor do the plaintiff's allegations rise to the level of misconduct for which punitive damages can be assessed in the District of Columbia.
The Court holds that punitive damages may not be assessed against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in this case.
Wherefore, upon consideration of defendant WMATA's motion to strike punitive damages, the opposition thereto, the arguments of counsel in open Court and the entire record in this case, it is by the Court this 20th day of May, 1988,
ORDERED that the motion to strike punitive damages be, and hereby is, granted; and it is further
ORDERED that the motion to dismiss the claims against defendant Robinson, having been conceded by plaintiff, be, and hereby is, granted.