The deadly Metro crash that killed nine people and injured more than 70 is already having a financial effect on the transit system, with legal fees and insurance premiums mounting.
The first of what is expected to be many lawsuits was filed two days after Monday’s crash, with the parents of 15-year-old Davonne Flanagan, who broke a leg, seeking $950,000 from the transit system because of what the suit called its negligence in maintenance and personnel training.
Washington-area lawyers say they have been contacted about representing other victims, and warn there’s no ceiling for the coming onslaught of claims.
“At a minimum, for each of the decedents there will be a nexus of $1 million a piece on them - and that’s conservative,” said lawyer Manuel R. Geraldo, who has been practicing law locally for 30 years.
The District, where the crash occurred, has no cap on damages for personal injury cases, making the cases potentially costly, said Frank Kearney, a D.C. lawyer. Had the crash occurred just a short distance away in Maryland, he said, Metro’s liability in the personal injury cases would be capped at $200,000.
Once the Metro cases go to court, District judges must decide whether Metro is liable and how much money plaintiffs deserve.
“It clearly looks like liability will not be in dispute,” Geraldo said. “The argument is going to be over the nature and extent of the injuries.”
But Robert Enderle, a lawyer with Aschcraft & Gerel, said that if it turned out that faulty equipment was to blame for the crash, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority could try to blame its manufacturers.
Such lawsuits are typically covered by insurance coverage. But Metro’s board learned Thursday the transit system’s insurance policy was set to expire at midnight Tuesday. Normally the agency would have been able to renew the policy with set costs, but Chief Financial Officer Carol Kissal said the crash would end those rates and bring on higher but yet to be determined insurance premiums.