Metro discloses Red Line crash payouts of $1.6 million


Several people were killed after a Metro train rear-ended another on the Red Line in 2009 near the Fort Totten station. (James M. Thresher/The Washington Post)
January 11, 2013

In the first disclosures of settlements stemming from the worst crash in Metro’s history, the transit agency on Friday released a list of 84 payouts made through its claims office.

Metro paid a total of $1.6 million to settle the claims, according to the documents, which were released in response to a long-standing records request by The Washington Post.

The payments, by the Office of Third Party Claims, range from $333 to $150,000. The names of the recipients are redacted in the documents. The payments do not include settlements from federal lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court.

The third-party claims office handles cases that are not taken to litigation, according to Tracie Dickerson, assistant general counsel. The office typically handles such matters as slip-and-fall incident on a station platform.

For months, The Post has been seeking information from Metro about settlements of the federal lawsuits. Metro has repeatedly said it would respond to The Post’s requests. The agency released the list of third-party payments late Friday but nothing else that The Post requested.

In a letter Friday, Metro said it “withheld records relating to the terms of the settlements for both litigation and non-litigation cases because release of these records would harm WMATA’s ability to resolve the remaining cases.” It also said it “withheld these records because disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy.”

The Red Line crash on June 22, 2009, killed the train operator and eight passengers and left dozens injured.

In its final report on the incident, the National Transportation Safety Board said a malfunction of the automatic train control system was the direct cause of the crash.

The system did not detect the presence of a train and directed another to proceed toward it at full speed. However, it also said that chronic failures of track circuitry, a negligent safety attitude at Metro and weak oversight made the crash inevitable.

Since the 2009 crash, operators have run trains manually while the transit agency develops and tests a new automatic system. At the recommendation of the NTSB, Metro also has embarked on an intensive schedule of replacing track circuits and other equipment.

The District, Maryland and Virginia have strengthened the Tri-State Oversight Committee, which monitors safety at Metro but has no authority to enforce standards or issue fines.

Metro had sued its insurance company — Lexington Insurance of Boston — claiming that it failed to pay extra expenses and costs incurred after the 2009 crash. In the suit, Metro said Lexington was “turning its back” on the transit agency and didn’t pay costs it suffered after the crash. The agency also said its ridership dropped by “more than six million” after the accident, costing it $13 million or more.

Also in the lawsuit, Metro said Lexington has paid the agency about $1.2 million — less than 10 percent of its overall business-interruption loss.

Dan Stessel, Metro’s chief spokesman, said in an e-mail Friday that the agency “reached an out-of-court settlement” and that the terms were “confidential.”

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