BGL wins a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals case allowing the family of a man who fell to his death at a WMATA station to seek damages.

Brown, Goldstein & Levy has won a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals case reversing a 2020 lower court decision on Whiteru v. WMATA. The case centers on the 2013 death of Okiemute Whiteru, a lawyer who suffered an accidental injury in the Washington D.C. Judiciary Square metro station and subsequently died from his injuries. The reversal allows Whiteru’s parents, Cameroon and Agnes Whiteru, to seek damages at trial.

Abigail Graber, as a BGL attorney, argued the case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in September 2021, with partners Andy Freeman and Kobie Flowers joining her in writing the brief. They accused the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) of negligence under D.C. common law, as the station agent on duty failed to discover Whiteru’s body in time to provide lifesaving care. His body was discovered by a metro commuter four days later.

WMATA argued that contributory negligence was a bar to recovery and a factor in Whiteru’s death. However, Abigail’s argument in the D.C. Circuit Court explained that the duty of a common carrier to come to the aid of injured passengers precludes the application of contributory negligence in this case.

This week’s decision reversal in the D.C. Court of Appeals confirms that WMATA has a duty to aid injured passengers. The three-judge panel said that “a reasonable jury could conclude that [the Judiciary Station manager] failed to perform routine inspections or performed them unreasonably.” Therefore, WMATA could be liable for failing to help Whiteru “because it knew or had reason to know that he was injured.”

Brown, Goldstein & Levy looks forward to proving the Whiteru family’s case at trial.


“U.S. appeals court revives lawsuit by family of man who died in Metro station and wasn’t found for 4 days” | The Washington Post | February 12, 2022