The family of a Rockville man who had a fatal heart attack last summer after climbing a shut-down escalator at the Bethesda Metro station in 96-degree weather filed a $2.2 million wrongful death lawsuit against Metro yesterday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
The parents of Richard Hadaway Smith, 37, allege in the five-page lawsuit that Metro officials were negligent in failing to maintain at least one working escalator at the Metro station during such extreme weather.
The lawsuit also alleges that Metro was negligent in failing to post signs or to direct passengers to the station's elevator, which was working.
Metro spokeswoman CherylJohnson said she could not comment because the matter is in litigation.
Smith collapsed and died July 20, 1998, after climbing the equivalent of 10 stories--more than 200 feet--up the steps of an escalator that Metro officials had shut down.
Officials said at the time that two of the station's escalators were broken and that the third was intentionally shut down so people could walk up and down.
Smith, a massage therapist, was on his way to get a massage that day, said Ronald A. Karp, the Bethesda lawyer representing Richard Lee Smith and Nancy Lee Smith, Richard Hadaway Smith's parents.
After climbing the steps, Smith suffered a heart attack and collapsed near a bus stop about 3:20 p.m.
An autopsy showed that Smith died of a heart attack, Karp said. The autopsy also showed that Smith had heart disease; some of his arteries were clogged, Karp said.
However, Smith would not have suffered the fatal heart attack if the escalators had been working or if he had been directed to the elevator, Karp said.
"We believe the fatal heart attack was eminently preventable," Karp said.