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Felder v. Wmata

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 31, 2016

CORNIELIUS FELDER, As Administrator of the Estate of Harold Ingram, Plaintiff,
v.
WMATA, Defendant. WMATA, Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
HOLLAND, LP, et al, Third-Party Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Thomas F. Hogan, Senior United States District Judge

This is a wrongful death case brought by plaintiff Cornielius Felder, as personal representative of the estate of Harold Ingram, against defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA"). Pending before the Court is WMATA's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint In Part [ECF No. 40], which seeks the dismissal of plaintiff s claims for (1) negligent training and supervision and (2) compensatory damages pursuant to the Virginia Wrongful Death Act. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to the motion [ECF No. 48], and WMATA a reply [ECF No. 50]. The Court will grant the motion in part to the extent WMATA seeks dismissal of the claim for compensatory damages pursuant to the Virginia Wrongful Death Act and will separately address that part of the motion that seeks dismissal of the claim for negligent training and supervision.

I.

According to the allegations contained in the Amended Complaint, on October 6, 2013, Mr. Ingram was working for a WMATA subcontractor on a project to replace part of a Metro rail line in Washington, D.C., when he was fatally struck by a section of rail that was suspended from a Pettibone Speed Swing operated by a WMATA employee. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 10-16, 33-35 [ECF No. 39]. At the time of Mr. Ingram's death, he and the five children that survived him (including his eldest son, Mr. Felder) were residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Id. ¶¶ 4, 6, 67. Mr. Ingram was not married at the time of his death. Id. ¶ 3.

On October 17, 2014, plaintiff commenced this lawsuit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on behalf of Mr. Ingram's estate and his surviving children. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 4, 6 [ECF No. 39]. WMATA removed the case to this Court, id. f 2, and filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint In Part, which motion this Court granted in part and deferred in part, see ECF Nos. 7, 10, 11, 16, 17. Plaintiff subsequently filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint, which motion the Court granted. See ECF Nos. 20, 38.

The Amended Complaint alleges the following causes of action: (1) negligence by the WMATA employee who operated the Speed Swing, (2) negligence by WMATA in its training and supervision of the same WMATA employee, (3) negligence by WMATA's employees in their failure to position, inspect, and maintain a hydraulic fluid hose that ruptured, and (4) negligence by WMATA's employees in their failure to conduct a worksite briefing. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 31-48 [ECF No. 39]. Plaintiff seeks damages under the Virginia Wrongful Death Act, Va. Code §§ 8.01-50, et seq., or, alternatively, under both the District of Columbia Wrongful Death Act, D.C. Code § 16-2701, and the District of Columbia Survival of Actions Act, D.C. Code § 12-101. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 68-70 [ECF No. 39].

In its Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint In Part pending before the Court, WMATA asserts, inter alia, that the Virginia Wrongful Death Act does not apply in this case, but rather, the District of Columbia's Wrongful Death and Survival of Actions Acts govern. WMATA's Memo, of P. & A. In Support of Mot. to Dismiss PL's Amend. Compl. In Part at 7-8 [ECF No. 40-1]. Plaintiff disagrees. See PL's Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss the Am. Compl. In Part 16 [ECF No. 48], II.

Notwithstanding the parties' disagreement as to whether District of Columbia or Virginia law governs damages, the parties do agree, at least, that to resolve this choice of law dispute the Court must apply the choice of law rules of the District of Columbia. See, e.g., Wu v. Slomber, 750 F.3d 944, 949 (D.C. Cir. 2014) ("As a general matter, we must apply the choice-of-law rules of the jurisdiction in which we sit - namely, the District of Columbia."). "D.C. law employs 'a modified governmental interests analysis which seeks to identify the jurisdiction with the most significant relationship to the dispute.'" In re APA Assessment Fee Litig., 766 F.3d 39, 51 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (quoting Washkoviak v. Student Loan Mklg. Ass'n, 900 A.2d 168, 180 (D.C. 2006)).

In performing the governmental interests analysis, the Court must "evaluate the governmental policies underlying the applicable laws and determine which jurisdiction's policy would be more advanced by the application of its law to the facts of the case under review." District of Columbia v. Coleman, 667 A.2d 811, 816 (D.C. 1995). The Court also considers

the four factors enumerated in the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 145:
a) the place where the injury occurred;
b) the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred;
c) the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of ...

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