WTOP ran an article today about a lawsuit WMATA has filed against Jemal’s Fairfield Farms and it piqued my interest. As WTOP says, WMATA is more typically being sued than suing others, so this is an interesting development. The summary has it right but… what could they have piled up that was so huge as to goof up the tracks?
A few minutes with PACER and I have some answers, as well as overhead looks via Google. C’mon in, let’s snoop.
The property owned by Jemal’s Fairfield Farms is at 4800 Addison Road in Maryland. Here’s a direct link to the overhead and presumably that big old dirt pile is the operation in question. The suit doesn’t claim that they piled things up anywhere other than on their own property, but that the “size of the soil stockpile exceeded the dimensions permitted by Prince George’s Country within Defendandant’s approved site plan.” WMATA’s suit says there’s damage to a “bridge abutment and aerial structures supporting” the tracks on their own property.
WMATA got permission to go onto Fairfield’s land and do a ground survey last year. Their court filing says the survey concluded that it was the stockpile that caused the ground shifting and subsequent damage, forcing them to slow train travel along the area. WMATA asserts they sent a copy of the survey and a request to Fairfield Farms asking for assistance in resolving the problem.
WMATA says no response or acknowledgment has come back since they sent this letter in late November. They’re claiming that there’s a need to do stabilization on the Fairfield Farms ground and then repair issues with the WMATA infrastructure and equipment. Estimated cost: 11 million bucks, which is the amount they’d like the court to award them.
If you’re wondering “can’t I just pile what I want on my own property?” well, the suit asserts that Maryland provides for a “land owner to have their land remain in its natural condition, unaffected by any act of their neighbor.” They assert that since the failure on their land resulted from what Fairfield did on their own land that makes Fairfield liable.
Interesting stuff, but given the claim that Fairfield has completely ignored WMATA’s requests and communication so far it’s entirely possible this is just a first salvo to try to get them to cooperate. I’d be surprised if WMATA were to actually be successful in getting Fairfield to shoulder much cost beyond the land alterations.