United States District Court, District of Columbia
IN RE: THE YELLOW LINE CASES This order relates to: ALL CASES
S. CHUTKAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case consolidates the claims of approximately 100 plaintiffs
who allege injuries stemming from an incident on January 12,
2015 when they were trapped in a smoke-filled Metro train for
approximately forty-five minutes. Plaintiffs filed separate
cases against defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit
Authority (“WMATA”), and later amended their
complaints to include claims against the District of
Columbia. WMATA has also filed a cross-claim against the
District, which now moves under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss Count II of Plaintiffs'
Master Complaint and WMATA's cross-claim. (ECF No. 237,
District Mem.). Upon consideration of the parties'
filings, the District's motion shall be GRANTED.
January 12, 2015, at approximately 3:15 p.m., WMATA train 302
encountered dense smoke and came to an emergency halt in a
tunnel several hundred feet past the L'Enfant Plaza
Station on the Yellow Line track in the direction of
Huntington, Virginia. (ECF No. 225, Master Compl.
¶¶ 313-14). The train became disabled in the
tunnel, without power and illuminated only by emergency
lighting. (Id. ¶ 316). Passengers were
instructed to stay on the train with the doors closed, as the
train would be returning to L'Enfant Plaza station.
(Id. ¶ 317). At approximately 3:18 p.m., a
construction worker called the D.C. Office of Unified
Communications (“OUC”) and reported that smoke
was emanating from a Metro ventilation shaft roughly a
half-mile away from the train's location, and at
approximately 3:22 p.m., a WMATA Supervisor of Metro Rail
Unit 22 called OUC to report heavy smoke in the L'Enfant
Plaza station. (Id. ¶¶ 320-21).
p.m., pursuant to D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services
Department (“FEMS”) protocol, OUC dispatched a
“Metro Station Box Alarm, ” which included five
Engine Companies, two Ladder Trucks, two Battalion Fire
Chiefs, one Battalion Fire Chief to WMATA Operations Command
Center, one Heavy Rescue Squad, one Basic Life Support Unit,
one Advanced Life Support Unit, and one EMS Supervisor.
(Id. ¶ 323). The first FEMS responders arrived
at L'Enfant Plaza station at approximately 3:31 p.m.,
sixteen minutes after the train first became disabled.
(Id. ¶ 324). Shortly thereafter, at 3:33 p.m.,
OUC received several calls from passengers on the train.
(Id. ¶ 329). Approximately forty-five minutes
after the train first became disabled, at 4:00 p.m., FEMS
began evacuating the over 200 passengers from the train.
(Id. ¶ 331).
this incident, approximately 100 Plaintiffs filed separate
civil cases against WMATA, and these cases were consolidated
in July 2015. Since February 2015, this case has been stayed
pending the release of a Final Accident Report from the
National Transportation Safety Board
(“NTSB”). However, in late 2016, the court partially
lifted the stay to permit the Plaintiffs to file a single
Master Complaint, which they did on December 9, 2016.
(See ECF No. 225). Plaintiffs brought negligence
claims against WMATA and the District and allege that they
suffered severe injuries due to smoke inhalation and fear of
impending death. One passenger, Carol Glover, ultimately died
allegedly from smoke inhalation.
Plaintiffs allege in Count I that WMATA owed them a duty of
reasonable care as a common carrier and breached that duty
(a) Failing to properly inspect and maintain the third rail
running through the relevant section of tunnel;
(b) Failing to properly inspect and maintain the ventilation
system for the relevant section of tunnel;
(c) Failing to properly train its agents, servants, and/or
employees in the proper activation and use of the ventilation
system in the event of a fire or smoke emergency;
(d) Failing to calibrate its radio equipment to be compatible
with that of FEMS despite having clear notice of its
(e) Failing to equip its trains, specifically Train 302, with
safety equipment adequate for emergencies of this nature;
(f) Failing to adequately investigate the third-rail circuit
breaker that tripped at 3:06 p.m. on January 12;
(g) Failing to move Train 302 to a safe location (e.g., back
to the L'Enfant Plaza station) after it first encountered
smoke in the tunnel;
(h) Failing to in a timely manner shut off electricity to the
third rail in the relevant section of tunnel;
(i) Failing to in a timely manner inform FEMS that
electricity had been shut off to the third rail in the
relevant section of tunnel;
(j) Failing to in a timely manner evacuate Train 302 if and
when it was determined that the train could or would not be
moved and its cars were filling with smoke; and/or
(k) Otherwise negligently, carelessly, and wrongfully failing
to take reasonable precautions to protect its passengers ...