CALL IT profiles in no courage: Greater Washington's representatives in the House and Senate seem to be looking the other way instead of moving quickly this week to rescue the entire Metro transit system from what could be $3.5 billion or more in lawsuits. That is the awful possibility for taxpayers in Virginia, Maryland and the District if no one in the Virginia or Maryland delegations takes a lead to clarify Metro's liability in workers' compensation cases. Otherwise, a bill about to be enacted will leave Metro wide open in thousands of cases thought to have been settled already -- and heaven knows how many new suits.
What would your local senator or representative need to do? All that's needed is a little leadership in seeking congressional agreement on a provision protecting Metro's past workers' compensation record from any new retroactive lawsuits and other jeopardy. Without this protection, the liability of Metro will be wide open because of ambiguous language in a "Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act" (which used to cover Metro workers) that is on its way to enactment.
From what we can gather, local legislators aren't opposed to a move that would protect Metro -- but no one seems willing to take the lead. It's not even a question of tinkering with the longshoremen's bill; separate language clarifying Metro's past status would take care of it, since Metro is no longer under the longshoremen's act.
So if some day we wake up to find Metro up to its station-tops in lawsuits and damage awards to workers who either have been compensated before or who suddenly turn up with lawyers in court to sue for something in the past, remember your local representatives on Capitol Hill who took a walk in late '84. Won't someone up there stand up for his constituents' financial interests?