Metro is Invincible

Remember how Metro buses have that nasty little habit of killing pedestrians who have the walk signal? Well, here come the lawsuits. The family of Sally Dean McGhee is looking for a cool twenty million. McGhee was run over on Valentine's Day on 7th and Penn. Her coworker, Martha Schoenborn, was also killed in the crash. Her husband is looking for $100,000,000.00 (a little less than one sixth of a baseball stadium). I don't know why Schoenborn is worth five times as much as McGhee. I imagine there's a lot of guesstimating when dealing with pain and suffering. Emily S. Fenichel, who was killed on June 8, 2006 in Friendship heights, also has a widowed husband suing the city. The Washington Times article I'm referencing doesn't mention how much money he is looking for.

It's obvious to me that these families deserve a sizable chunk of change. These victims weren't jaywalkers. They were simply walking down the street when they had the signal. They were killed by gross negligence. Metro should be paying out of its ears.

Unfortunately that may not happen.

In a response to one of the lawsuits, Metro attorneys said "some or all of the claims may be barred" under the legislation creating Metro. The response did not specify which claims might be considered barred.

A rudimentary Google check came up with this from Jones v. WMATA decided on March 17, 2000 by the U.S. DC Circuit Court of Appeals:

Under the Eleventh Amendment, " 'an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another State.' " Morris v. WMATA , 781 F.2d 218, 222-23 (D.C. Cir. 1986) (quoting Edelman v. Jordan , 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974)). "Moreover, though the immunity is that of the state, 'some agencies exercising state power have been permitted to invoke the Amendment in order to protect the state treasury from liability that would have had essentially the same practical consequences as a judgment against the State itself.' " Id . at 223 (quoting Lake Country Estates v. Tahoe Regional Plan- ning Agency , 440 U.S. 391, 400-01 (1979)). WMATA was created by a compact enacted by the Congress and to which the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Maryland and the District cf Columbia are signatories. We have consistently recognized that in signing the WMATA Compact, Virginia and Maryland each conferred its immunity upon WMATA, which therefore enjoys, to the same extent as each state, immunity from suit in federal court based on its performance of governmental functions. 4 See, e.g. , Morris v. WMATA.

That's right. You can't sue Metro because its signatories, MD, VA, and DC, are exempt from federal lawsuits. This is some crazy shit. Three people lost and their loved ones are going to get zilch? Sovereign immunity, my ass. This is a disgrace.


  1. AnonymousMay 16, 2007

    I'm all for pain and suffering compensation...but $20M and $100M? Come on now...get real... How can anyone think that is realistic?

  2. AnonymousMay 16, 2007

    How much would you ask for if your wife died?

  3. Why do we feel as though asking for $$ would do a death justice? So getting $20M because your wife died would make you feel better? Then what do you do with that money...? Build a nice new house? Get a new boat? Thank god she died so you could get some new shit huh?

  4. AnonymousMay 16, 2007

    I'm all for the idea of compensation, but you're talking about bankrupting the public transportation system used by thousands of people every day just because you don't want to have to work another day in your life.

  5. AnonymousMay 16, 2007

    at least we'll know who to blame when the fares jump again.

  6. Let's say she was a GS-13, with 20 more years to work. Baring any promotions, that would probably be about 3 million in income to the family that's gone. Add interest from retirement accounts, plus what the gov't pitches in to the retirement, that's another 2 or 3 million easy. Plus any income she may have earned after retirement, or with a second job: another million? 7 million right there, and we haven't even gotten to pain and suffering. 20 million seems perfectly reasonable to me.

    Are there kids? Are they paying for college, supporting elderly parents, supporting a disabled child/relative? Snuffing someone out during their prime earning years is financially devastating to a family.

    Buying a whole bunch of gigantic buses and hiring people to drive them around is a huge responsiblity and they are culpable, and they should pay. That's what insurance is for. Just because they are a quasi-state governmental organization doesn't mean they have no resposibility for their actions. I think they should be held to an even higher standard.

  7. Concerned govt employeeMay 16, 2007

    (clap clap clap)
    Well done kwest.

  8. axl roseMay 16, 2007

    Immigrants and f*ggots
    They make no sense to me
    They come to our country
    And think they'll do as they please
    Like start some mini Iran,
    Or spread some fuckin' disease
    They talk so many goddamn ways
    It's all Greek to me

  9. AnonymousMay 16, 2007

    ohhh life is tough...yeah that's right. Just like soldiers and people subjected to pollution and other "silkwoods" (or are you too young for that Rusty) can't sue the gov't. Wahhh. Go to law school...the law is NOT fair. AND?

    And I am with all the other anons. so they sue and win for $XYZ millions. Does that make metro learn a lesson and become a better system? Am I worth $10 M? ...here's the answer a 4 year old could tell you---no! if so I hope I get killed for my family's sake. They need the money

  10. AnonymousMay 16, 2007

    enough reason to put them out of their misery: "let's say she was a GS-13, with 20 more years to work. Baring any promotions, that would probably be about 3 million in income to the family that's gone. Add interest from retirement accounts, plus what the gov't pitches in to the retirement, that's another 2 or 3 million easy"

    VOMIT. Insurance I am for. Cupablity too. But c'mon. It's DC can you really expect anything LESS from a shithole?

  11. if i were dagny i'dMay 16, 2007

    seriously. Sue metro? Blood = Turnip. Let's sue the Enrons of the country. Let's take out the looters!

  12. i'll fold your clothes with your body still in themMay 16, 2007


    What's that?

    I heard of MS-13 before but not GS. They must be a new outfit out on the streets. I'll ask around at school tomorrow and see if anybody knows about them.

  13. AnonymousMay 17, 2007

    Rusty is a Douche .....

  14. Man, you got yerself some WEIRD lurkers...

  15. AnonymousMay 17, 2007

    Lets not forget that the 20 or 100 mill is coming from OUR taxes. Hell, no I don't wanna make some dude rich with that money. Fix the schools and all our other social services first.

    Besides, we should all learn a lesson, even if the light is green for pedestrians, if a metro bus is coming, you better wait till its completely stopped before crossing. Learned that in third world countries.

  16. i touch myself with images of rusty in my mindMay 17, 2007

    Hey Rusty do you want to sign my limited edition Red Sox personal lubricant?

  17. lincolnparkerMay 17, 2007

    "Fix the schools and all our other social services first."

    That's a joke, right? How long have you been here?

  18. 40 acres and a segwayMay 17, 2007

    $20 million?????

    Why not go ahead and give all the blacks their respirations too while your at it.

    Douche badges.

  19. AnonymousMay 17, 2007

    seriously, if metro paid 100 million for every person that it killed it would have been bankrupt years ago.
    then traffic would increase 10 fold, and traffic accidents along with it.
    i'd get my arm severed off my a metro bus for 10 million.
    do we have a deal?
    DC sucks for many many reasons, but this is NOT one of them.
    If they were allowed to sue metro and the system went bankrupt DC would suck even worse than it does now.
    Rusty is a douche.
    Go back to drowning in your white guilt.
    Bring back JamesF.

  20. Respirations? LOL

    Obviously families don't deserve $100M. Single digit millions is a good place to start though. I'm surprised there isn't more sympathty for the people getting killed by buses.

  21. I'm not familiar with Virginia or Maryland law, but most states waive some portion of their immunity. For example, Florida has a statue waiving its sovereign immunity up to $100,000 per injury or something. So I'm not sure that saying the families won't get ANYTHING is an entirely accurate statement, because chances are VA and MD have laws waiving a portion of their immunity. And, too, there is that issue of GROSS negligence that you pointed out.

  22. How much would someone have to pay you for you to willingly sacrifice your wife and have her be run over and killed by a Metro bus?

    You need to come up with a figure.

    That is the figure you sue Metro for.

  23. AnonymousMay 17, 2007

    I say free "smart trip" cards for the surviving members. (of course they have to add the funds themselves)

  24. I think that asking for huge amounts of money sends a message to Metro about the seriousness of the problem with certain metro drivers. It is horrible that so many people have been injured and killed by metro, and I wish that there were a way to make the city safe for all pedestrians and drivers--included metro drivers as they are occasionally put in danger themselves.

    One can't really quantify how much someone is 'worth.' It just isn't possible, but I hope that those injured and those who have lost their loved ones feel that the law is at least considering how certain people's lives have been changed forever.

  25. Why can't the bus drivers themselves be brought up on vehicular manslaughter charges? And has there been any confirmation that these people have been fired and their licenses (or at least commercial licenses) revoked?

  26. Judge PearsonMay 17, 2007

    Hmm. By D.C. math, one white lady is worth 1.53 times as much as one black man's pants.

  27. Until you've lost a loved one to a Metro bus, you can't say how much money that widower is entitled to ask for. I'm thinking that since we have no kids and I don't make a lot of money, my husband wouldn't be able to sue for very much. But I would also guess that you ask for an insanely high number in hopes that you'll settle for some smaller amount. That's just good negotiation skills. You always ask high.

    If my husband were killed by a Metro bus... hmm, he's on the FS scale, not GS... I don't know the exact conversions... But anyway I'd ask for a huge sum of money and then invest it in the Derek Zoolander School for People Who Want to Drive Metro Busses Good.

    What happens to the bus drivers who kill people? Do they get reprimmanded in any way?

  28. AnonymousMay 18, 2007

    They've all been fired and one is facing negligent homicide charges.


  29. AnonymousMay 18, 2007

    Marion Barry should be the decider in this case. And I'm for respirations for all the homeys.
    Peace out!

  30. AnonymousMay 18, 2007

    the comments here have been troubling at best. i understand that staggering amounts of money are, well, staggering, but we're talking about people's lives here, and you're faulting people who are grieving their spouses' death?

    i think it's misplaced anger. and i agree, the drivers themselves need to be held accountable, as does the governing body. metro buses scare the crap out of me whether i'm in a car or walking.

  31. AnonymousMay 18, 2007

    I have personally seen metrobuses do the craziest shit on the streets of DC and Maryland over the past 15+ years. If making Metro pay out millions is the only way to save future lives then I am all for it. If any one of us drove the way those drivers drove we would be thrown in jail long ago and all assets seized to pay the victims. Or are some animals more equal than other animals?

  32. Judge pearsonMay 18, 2007

    Where my motherfuckin' pants at, bitch?

  33. Folks, first of all it's not coming out of taxes. It's coming out of the multi-million dollar property- casualty policies that Metro is supposed to have in place. A transit authority of this magnitude is supposed to have insurance to cover this kind of occurance. If not, they deserve to be taken to the cleaners, because the purchase of property casualty insurance would pretty clearly be a cheap mitigator.

    As to the sovereign immunity question, the issue can be sidestepped if the lawsuit also named the bus drivers, Jack Requa, Dick White, Dan Tagherlini, and John Catoe as parties. The principle of joint and several liability would put METRO in a situation where it would have to defend the METRO officials in the negligence tort.

    As to "bankrupting the public transportation system", you're correct in observing this is a possible consequence. However, I am not a consequentialist. The victims are still entitled to their settlements. If bankrupting METRO is a consequence, maybe the WMATA compact states and Congress can step up to the plate, pay the judgements they are liable for, and pass laws forcing METRO to get better insurance.

    Yes it comes out of taxpayers' pocket, but this is what we get for allowing METRO to hire the morons who work there.

    The $100 million may include a request for punitive damages, which again, I can see.

    The standard of liability here is this: what could have been done to prevent the negligent actions causing death? would this cost less than the total earnings of the deceased? In this case, Because the bus drivers were engaged in behavior that was criminally prohibited, it becomes a very hard tort to refute.

  34. You cannot sue for punitive damages in DC.

    I sued, I got 750K in the end.
    So shut up all of you. You know nothing about law or holding your wife's brains in your hands.

    I have met and cried and held in my arms the man who took my wife's life and Sally's.

    Victor Kolako and I (yes, IM THE HUSBAND, GREG SCHOENBORN) are working hard on the documentary that I, as a producer, my job, to present to the public within a year.

    And if you are really concerend, you can come to the vigil at 7th and Penn Feb 14th, 2009 and see Victor, the man who made this mistake and me holding hands and TRY TO FIX WMATA. Victor was a victim as we all were.

    The rest of you...... stop being so, stop being such idiots and make a change. Get involved. Otherwise you walk on sand.