When is a Wet Metro Floor a Legal Liability?

The D.C. Court of Appeals recently addressed this question in a case brought against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”) by a plaintiff who suffered injury after slipping on a wet floor in the Archives Metro station.

In that case, Reeves v. WMATA, the plaintiff alleged that rainwater tracked into the station by fellow passengers caused the station floor to become dangerously slippery, and that WMATA failed to warn passengers of this dangerous condition.

The trial court granted WMATA’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that WMATA had no duty to warn because water tracked into a Metro station on a rainy day creates an obvious danger, not a hidden danger.

In reversing the trial court, the Court of Appeals held that, even if it was reasonably apparent to the plaintiff that the wet floor posed a danger, the plaintiff had nonetheless presented evidence that the danger “was not equally well known to both parties” and “was peculiarly foreseeable” to WMATA, which was in a better position to know “just how worn down and slippery””the floors in its stations are.

In short, the mere fact that Metro passengers recognize that wet Metro floors pose a danger does not automatically excuse WMATA from warning passengers of the danger.  The Court of Appeals’ decision can be read here.

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