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Atiya K. Reeves v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

August 5, 2020

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the condition of a wet floor in a Metro station on a rainy day during rush hour was a dangerous condition that imposed a duty upon Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”).  Moreover, there existed a genuine dispute of a material fact as to whether the slippery floor was an open and obvious condition that Plaintiff should have been aware of. 

Plaintiff, Atiya K. Reeves, entered the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro station in the early evening of February 24, 2011, at which time it was raining outside.  After entering the station and passing through the turnstiles, she slipped and fell.

Plaintiff sued WMATA, claiming the worn down state of the tiles, in combination with the water, made for a dangerous condition and WMATA had a duty to warn of the dangerous condition. During her deposition the Plaintiff testified that prior to the incident she was looking ahead and not at the floor. She did not observe the water until she fell, at which time she noticed “trails of water” as if tracked by people’s feet.

WMATA filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing there was no evidence of a dangerous condition and the wet floor was an open and obvious condition. The Court granted the motion stating that the mere fact that some water was deposited on the floor of the station, tracked in by patrons, their clothing, or umbrellas, do not create a dangerous condition. Moreover, WMATA had no duty to warn of an open and obvious danger.

Plaintiff filed a Motion for Reconsideration, enclosing a news report from a local NBC affiliate about a WMATA board member’s fall at a Metro station several months prior to Plaintiff’s fall.  The report stated, “Metro has already looked at improving the tile floors at its 86 stations,” and, according to the report, the board member remarked that it may be time to revisit the issue.  In an Affidavit attached to Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration, Plaintiff’s expert opined that because WMATA knew that the tiles on the floors of the station were slippery when wet, WMATA had a duty of reasonable care to properly warn of the dangerous condition, and breached their duty by failing to warn when “it [WMATA] peculiarly knew, or should have known in the exercise of reasonable care, that the floor tiles would be wet on February 24, 2011. The Motion was denied. 

The Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling, concluding that WMATA had constructive notice of a dangerous condition as it had been raining outside, which was sufficient notice of a forseeable hazard. The Court also found that testimony of Plaintiff’s expert created a question of fact for the jury and also held that the condition was not “open and obvious” as Plaintiff’s expert had opined that there was such a hidden danger in the worn down tiles and lack of slip resistance that was known to WMATA and not to the Plaintiff.