WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge has thrown out two cross-claims and an entire third-party complaint stemming from a 2009 Metro train collision that killed eight passengers and one train operator.
ARINC Inc., a defendant in the multiple underlying lawsuits filed in the wake of the crash, had filed a cross-claim against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. It said the Metro committed breach of contract and bad faith by encouraging plaintiffs to sue the firm for damages.
Since ARINC had installed the Metro’s Advanced Information Management software program, it claimed to enjoy contractual indemnification of damages awarded at trial or through settlement of the underlying lawsuits.
ARINC’s third-party complaint sought recovery of damages in connection with an action filed on behalf of the estate of Jeanice McMillan, a Metro employee killed in the accident.
In a motion to dismiss, the Metro said the cross-claims fail because it has no duty to refrain from informing the parties about ARINC’s potential involvement in the accident, and because it never agreed to indemnify ARINC.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton agreed, saying the contractual obligations between the two entities “have no bearing on WMATA’s decision to inform the plaintiffs that ARINC many be partially liable for the accident.”
“In fact, WMATA was under an obligation imposed by the court to provide the plaintiffs with a list of potential parties who might have liability for the metrorail accident,” Walton wrote.
Specifically, the judge recalled his own instructions to WMATA to “compile a list of mechanisms, software or other components of [the metrorail] system that may have contributed to the Metro Red Line train crash and the entities or individuals that may have been responsible for producing and/or maintaining those components.”
As for the indemnification demand, Walton said that claim too must fail, noting that the specific contract provision identified by ARINC does not include the terms “indemnify” or “indemnification.”
“Moreover, the scope of the provision appears to apply only to liability limitations involving disputes between ARINC and WMATA, as it only discusses the potential liability between the two entities as opposed to providing indemnification for third-party liability,” he wrote.
Walton dismissed duplicative claims in the third-party complaint on the same grounds. His dismissed the rest after finding that they implicated the District of Columbia Worker’s Compensation Act. ARINC was attempting to shield itself from liability after McMillan’s family sought a workers’ compensation award against it following her death.
“Although the act does not prohibit claims for contractual indemnification, ARINC has failed to show the existence of any such contractual provision,” he wrote.
Walton’s multi-tiered decision also mooted a WMATA motion to strike ARINC’s request for attorneys’ fees.
Two Red Line trains crashed during the afternoon rush hour on June 22, 2009, between the Takoma and Fort Totten train stations, when the Metro computer system failed to detect a train waiting between the two stations. The collision killed nine and injured more than 80.