Maryland High Court Upholds Transit Authority’s Immunity From Slip-and-Fall Lawsuit – Tinsley v. WMATA

In a recent decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) held that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was immune from a lawsuit resulting from a slip-and-fall accident in a WMATA station. The court’s decision was based largely on the principle of sovereign immunity, which protects the state government and its departments and agencies from lawsuits for monetary damages by citizens, except in certain circumstances.

In this case, Tinsley v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the plaintiff Veronica Tinsley was at the Cheverly Metro Station in Maryland when she slipped and fell on the wet platform. She alleged that she was exercising due care for her safety but slipped because the platform was wet from cleaning. The plaintiff argued that WMATA was responsible for maintenance of the platform but failed to post adequate signs or warnings about the wet platform after cleaning it.

In its defense, the WMATA argued that Section 80 of the WMATA Compact shields it from liability for money damages. The Compact is an interstate agreement among Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia that establishes the WMATA as an interstate entity responsible for mass transit in the area. The court found that because the Compact was signed by states who are entitled to sovereign immunity, the entity the Compact created was likewise entitled to immunity. While Section 80 waives immunity for certain lawsuits (those arising from proprietary functions), it does not waive immunity for lawsuits arising from governmental functions. Finding that the maintenance of platforms was a governmental function, the court held that the WMATA Compact did not waive immunity, so the plaintiff’s lawsuit was barred.

Slip-and-fall accidents are unfortunately common. When they occur on private property due to negligently maintained land or dangers on the property (such as potholes, exposed nails, and rotten flooring), the injured party may typically recover damages from the property owner. This is based on a theory that landowners owe a duty of care to visitors, and that duty encompasses a duty to maintain the land and inspect it to ensure that it is free from unreasonable dangers. This case is unusual in that the property owner was a government entity, and thus immune from liability for monetary damages. The court’s decision is specific to this set of facts and may not apply in all circumstances.

If you were injured as a result of inadequately maintained property, Maryland slip-and-fall accident attorneys can help you identify the responsible parties and get the compensation you deserve. Even if you were injured on government property, you may still be entitled to some form of relief.

The injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen are skilled at pursuing justice for people in Maryland who have been injured as a result of dangerous property conditions or poorly maintained land. We also handle cases involving other types of personal injury, including medical malpractice, product defects, and car accidents. Contact us by calling (800) 654-1949, or by using our online contact form, for a free and confidential consultation.

Related Blog Posts:
Woman Claims Maryland Fall Accident Left Her with a Russian Accent, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 3, 2010
Escalator Malfunction at DC Metro Station Injures Four, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 31, 2010

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