Smoke Inhalation Lawsuits Against Washington, DC Metro Begin to Mount

Dozens of people who were trapped on a D.C. Metro train earlier this month for nearly an hour, as it filled with smoke from an electrical short on the track, are pursuing personal injury lawsuits against the Washington, D.C. area’s mass transit system for smoke inhalation injuries. 

More than 200 passengers were trapped for nearly an hour on a DC Metro train near L’Enfant Plaza on January 12, as an electrical short caused by water that got onto a rail caused thick smoke to fill the subway car. At least 80 people were treated for injuries at the scene, and one woman died of smoke inhalation after passing out.

The family of the woman who died, Carol Glover, and about six dozen others who were on the train have filed or indicate that they intend to file smoke inhalation lawsuits against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

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The D.C. Metro accident appears to have been caused by water that got onto the electrified third rail of the track, resulting in electrical arcing that produced smoke that filled the train. Passengers say they were trapped for 35-45 minutes as they waited for a rescue.

Passengers reported that thick smoke began to fill the subway cars, causing them to choke and worry for their lives. Passengers claimed the smoke started filling the cars quickly and witnesses say it became so thick it was difficult to see other passengers and people were losing consciousness.

The primary injury suffered by passengers appears to be caused smoke inhalation, but many also claim psychological injury, as reports from the train indicate that they were trapped for so long in the thick smoke that many believed they were about to die. Some sent texts to family members intended to tell them goodbye. As a result, a number of the lawsuits filed to date also include claims of emotional damage and mental trauma from the incident.

Glover’s family is pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against WMATA, claiming that the accident was foreseeable and avoidable. Attorneys for the family have said that while the incident which caused the smoke is still under investigation, it is clear that the passengers could have been evacuated sooner.

While the cause of the accident remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a number of officials have called for an investigation into the actions of first responders. Reports indicate that fire fighters had to wait until power was turned off on the rail to be able to remove people from the train, and there have also been reports that their radios did not work when they entered the subway tunnels, hampering communications.

As more information is discovered about this incident, it is expected that additional smoke inhalation injury lawsuits will be filed against D.C. Metro and other parties that may have been responsible for the problems or the inability to quickly rescue passengers trapped on the subway train.

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