Krauss on Legal Aftermath of Metro Crash

While investigation of this week's fatal Metro train accident is still underway, with fault as yet undetermined, the likelihood is that the District of Columbia's transit system will soon face a substantial number of lawsuits from families of those killed and from those injured or traumatized by the event.

"It will quite easily be tens of millions of dollars," said Professor Michael Krauss, who commented in a Washington Times article examining Metro's potential exposure to liability claims as a result of the accident.

Metro has requested that crash victims make claims directly to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) risk-management department in an effort to assess and manage claims as an alternative to litigation. WMATA also has set up a $250,000 relief fund to aid victims in need of immediate assistance.

Metro braces for crash lawsuits, The Washington Times, June 24, 2009. By Michael Drost and S.A. Miller.

"The litigation likely will come not only from the more than 70 injured and the families of the nine dead in the train pileup, but also from many of the other passengers on the subway cars who were frightened or otherwise traumatized.

"'It will quite easily be tens of millions of dollars,' said Michael I. Krauss, a law professor specializing in torts at George Mason University School of Law.

"That's a financial hit Metro can ill afford. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has been struggling with a revenue shortfall projected earlier this year at $154 million. Officials had proposed slashing 900 jobs and reducing services to balance the $1.3 billion operating budget.

"Metro officials were unable to immediately determine how much of any potential liability would be covered by insurance.

Mr. Graham said the transit system's finances or the potential legal bills are not of concern right now. He said they are focused on ensuring the 'safety and security' of the Metro system."

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