Lawyers working on the fallout from the fatal Washington Metro wreck in June 2009 have agreed to go to trial next year to begin resolving victims' suits for compensation.
In a hearing today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, lawyers for the plaintiffs and for the defendants agreed on a Sept. 20, 2011, date. That’s when they plan to bring at least one test case before a jury, with the possibility of settling other cases based on the outcome, said Patrick Regan, a name partner in Washington’s Regan, Zambri & Long and a lawyer for some of the plaintiffs.
More than 20 lawyers piled into the courtroom to update Judge Reggie Walton on the progress they’re making in the case. William Gandy, who is leading the defense team for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, told Walton that the trial schedule is “ambitious” but he did not object. Instead, Gandy, a partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, asked that Walton hold a conference every 60 days to gauge whether the case is on track. Walton agreed.
Nine people were killed and 76 were injured when two trains collided on Metro’s Red Line last summer. About 20 lawsuits filed on behalf of the passengers or their estates are being consolidated for the purpose of gathering and sharing evidence. Together, the lawsuits could mean millions in damages for the transit system and other defendants.
Lawyers for the passengers will lay out their case anew Thursday, when they’re scheduled to file a master complaint covering all the plaintiffs. They’ll have until May 2011 to finish the discovery process. U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola — whom Walton today called “our guru in that field” — has been charged with managing discovery.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers said their master complaint will include one new defendant: Maryland-based engineering company ARINC Inc., a WMATA contractor. A spokeswoman for the company did not have an immediate comment. Alstom Signaling Inc. and Ansaldo STS USA Inc. are also defendants in the cases.