The case against Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and other defendants over last year's deadly train crash will not go to trial until January 2012, a federal judge said in court Tuesday.
The trial in the suit had been scheduled for September 2011, but Judge Reggie Walton, at the request of the defense lawyers, pushed back the expected start date. Walton continued the trial reluctantly and said he does not intend to postpone it any further. The final National Transportation Safety Board report, which one lawyer called a “blueprint” for the case, was released last month.
Walton’s decision comes amid the addition of new defendants, including a WMATA contractor, ARINC Inc., the Maryland-based communications and engineering company. The plaintiffs allege ARINC was involved in the design and manufacture of an automatic train control system. Walton said in court he did not want to be “unreasonable” to newly named defendants.
The bulk of yesterday’s hearing centered on a dispute between the defense lawyers and plaintiffs’ counsel over the timing of depositions and the production of hundreds of thousands of documents tied to the June 22 crash on the Red Line near the Fort Totten station. Eight passengers and one of the train operators were killed.
A lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Patrick Regan of Washington’s Regan Zambri & Long, said in court yesterday that depositions should begin in October and run through December. He said the plaintiffs’ attorneys are expecting upwards of 30 depositions of WMATA employees, witnesses and non-party emergency responders.
WMATA’s chief counsel, William Gandy, managing partner of the Virginia office of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, said depositions this fall are premature because the defendants are still reviewing and producing documents. Gandy said a complete disclosure of documents is expected by Nov. 1.
Regan called the September 2011 planned trial date a compromise and argued against pushing the case back until 2012. “This is not a complicated case. We know what happened here,” Regan said in court. “The NTSB did an exhaustive report.”
Another status hearing is set for October, and mediation is set for November.