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Davis v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 3, 2019

MONIQUE R. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AMIT P. MEHTA UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Monique R. Davis was a passenger on a bus operated by Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”), which collided with a motorcyclist. Plaintiff claims that the crash caused her severe physical and emotional injuries. She brings four causes of action-(1) negligence, (2) negligent entrustment, (3) negligent hiring, training, retention and supervision, and (4) negligence per se. WMATA moves to dismiss Counts II and III-negligent entrustment and negligent hiring, training, retention and supervision, respectively-because they are barred by sovereign immunity. For the reasons stated below, the court grants Defendant's motion to dismiss these two counts.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         On April 20, 2016, Plaintiff was a passenger on a bus owned and operated by Defendant WMATA. See Compl., ECF No. 1-4 [hereinafter Compl.], ¶ 4. Plaintiff alleges that the WMATA bus driver failed to yield the right of way while making a left turn and collided with a motorcyclist. See Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff asserts that the WMATA bus driver's negligence caused the crash. See Id. ¶¶ 7-30. Additionally, Plaintiff contends that WMATA acted negligently by failing to investigate, supervise, and train the driver and by believing the driver would operate the bus in a safe manner. See Id. ¶¶ 31-41. Because of the collision, Plaintiff sustained physical, emotional, and financial injuries. See id. ¶ 42.

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed this action on January 10, 2019, in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, pleading four causes of action against WMATA: (1) negligence, (2) negligent entrustment, (3) negligent hiring, training, retention and supervision, and (4) negligence per se. See Id. ¶¶ 44-47.

         On March 8, 2019, Defendant filed a Notice of Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446. See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1, ¶ 4. On March 8, 2019, Defendant filed an initial Answer, see Answer, ECF No. 3, and a Motion for Partial Dismissal, seeking dismissal of Counts II (Negligent Entrustment) and III (Negligent Hiring, Training, Retention and Supervision), see Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 4 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.], at 3. Plaintiff filed a timely opposition to Defendant's Motion on March 22, 2019, asking the court to deny Defendant's motion and to allow her to take discovery concerning WMATA's procedures and policies. See generally Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 9 [hereinafter Pl.'s Opp'n].

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         WMATA's claim of sovereign immunity implicates the court's subject matter jurisdiction. See Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. Barksdale-Showell, 965 A.2d 16, 21 (D.C. 2009). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) permits a defendant to move to dismiss a claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. When a defendant asserts immunity, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to establish that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the causes of action asserted in the complaint. See Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001). A court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint, but a plaintiff's factual allegations will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a Rule 12(b)(1) motion than in resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim. See id.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         WMATA is a transit authority that was created by an interstate compact signed by Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia and enacted via Congressional consent (the “WMATA Compact”). See Pub. L. No. 89-774, 80 Stat. 1324 (1966) (codified as amended at D.C. Code § 9-1107 et seq.). WMATA enjoys sovereign immunity, except to the extent that the WMATA Compact waives it. See Def.'s Mot. at 3-4. The WMATA Compact states:

[T]he Authority, shall be liable . . . for its torts and those of its Directors, officers, employees and agents committed in the course of any proprietary function . . . but shall not be liable for any such torts occurring in the performance of a governmental function . . . . Nothing contained in this Title shall be construed as a waiver by the District of ...

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