Metro equipment makers fighting release of Red Line crash settlement agreements


There were multiple casualties and several injured after one Metro train rear-ended another on the Red Line, north of Fort Totten, in June 2009. (James M. Thresher/For The Washington Post)

Two equipment manufacturers have filed an appeal to try to prevent the unsealing of settlement agreements in lawsuits involving the deadliest crash in Metro’s history.

Alstom Signaling Inc. and ARINC are trying to stop a federal judge from releasing the settlement amounts from lawsuits filed following the June 22, 2009, crash on Metro’s Red Line that killed eight passengers and a train operator and left dozens injured.

Alstom and ARINC made parts and equipment that were involved in the crash.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered the unsealing of the settlement agreements. His order came in response to a motion filed by The Washington Post, which has been trying to get access to the settlement details and other documents from Metro for more than a year. Metro has opposed disclosing details of the agreements, saying they are confidential.

The crash led to damning revelations about the system’s safety practices and a number of recommendations for improvement from the National Transportation Safety Board.

In his order, Walton called the Fort Totten crash “a matter of significant public concern” and he wrote that “because [Metro] is a governmental entity, its presence in this litigation enhances the need for public access to the judicial records.”

“And the fact that some of the sealed records reveal how [Metro] utilized taxpayer funds in settling lawsuits further strengthens the public’s stake in their release,” Walton said.

There is now a Sept. 25 deadline for Alstom and ARINC to file documents related to the case.

 

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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Dana Hedgpeth | August 27, 2013