A life lost when a Metro escalator failed
By Sarah A. White
Ann Scott Tyson’s March 19 Metro article, “Ups and downs of riding Metro,” was particularly poignant for me and my family. Near the article’s end, a frustrated Metro rider, Stephen Johnson, was quoted as saying, “Maybe someone needs to have a heart attack to get the Metro folks’ attention.”
Sadly, as the article pointed out, that has already happened. My brother, Richard H. Smith, was the Metro rider in July 1998 who died of a heart attack after being forced to climb the equivalent of 10 stories — more than 200 feet — up the steps of a shut-down Bethesda station escalator.
As to the lawsuit my family filed after my brother’s death, after nearly 10 years of litigation that took us all the way to an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, our suit was rejected on the finding that the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, as a “quasi-public” agency, is largely immune from tort liability.
The tragedy is that the death of my brother, at age 38, did not get the attention of the Metro “folks.” Twelve years later the problem with the escalators is worse than ever. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my brother and wonder who will be the next victim.
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