An investigation into a recent MBTA Red Line runaway train in Boston has turned up evidence the operator failed to follow numerous critical safety protocols. The finding is not all that surprising, considering it was already known the train left Braintree Station with no operator at the helm.
Thankfully, none of the 50 passengers aboard were injured.
Our Boston personal injury lawyers at The Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone understand the incident prompted several officials to demand the operator be fired. Massachusetts transit authorities soon thereafter acquiesced, following a prompt disciplinary hearing. A defense lawyer for the 53-year-old driver told the Associated Press his client "feels terrible" and has maintained a strong driving record in his previous years of service.
Still, the risk was certainly there as the train barreled through four stops in nine minutes until railway workers could take action to stop the train by cutting power to the third rail.
According to news reports of the incident, the incident occurred shortly after 6 a.m. The state Secretary of Transportation reported the emergency brake was not engaged and it's possible the throttle was instead tied back with a cord. Officials say the only way the train could have moved on its own would be if the hand brake wasn't engaged and somehow, the throttle were forced into the accelerate position. If this wasn't the case, the only explanation would be mechanical failure.
The operator had reportedly exited the train to start a bypass procedure because the train initially wouldn't start because of a signaling issue. When he exited, the train started to move without him.
Railroad officials say they are changing policy to bar operators from placing the train in bypass made absent a second senior official present. Further, safety administrators have asserted this particular incident involved a series of "irresponsible" acts by a single worker.
Train crash injuries, though relatively rare, are often quite serious when they do occur. Many involve derailment at a high rate of speed. Although no injuries were reported in this case, the chances for a crash were high, so officials are right to take swift action.
Personal injury lawyers analyze cases like this from a myriad of angles. First, if it becomes apparent the employee was negligent, legal action may be taken against him directly. However, the chances of collecting sufficient damages from an individual are usually slim. That's why we then look to assert vicarious liability.
As a general rule of law in the Commonwealth, an employer may be held vicariously liable for wrongful conduct of employee if that conduct occurs within the scope of the employee's employment. This would be conduct that is authorized by the employer, meaning it is:
- Of the kind the employee was hired to perform;
- Occurs substantially in the work-related time and space limits;
- Motivated at least in part by a purpose to serve the employer.
An employer may be vicariously liable for worker's actions even if employer has done nothing wrong.
Additionally, claims of direct negligence may be asserted if it can be shown employer was somehow also to blame. Some examples of assertions made on this theory might include:
- Negligent hiring
- Negligent supervision
- Negligent maintenance or repair of equipment
- Negligent training
A third avenue we may explore in a train crash case is product liability. Manufacturers of all products are expected to ensure their products are reasonably safe and that consumers are protected from or at least warned about foreseeable hazards. If a mechanical defect was to blame and it could be shown the defect related to either the design of the component or its manufacture, then both the manufacturer and the distributor could be held liable for damages.
In this case, because no one suffered serious injuries, it's not likely legal action will be taken. However, it's estimated there are thousands of train collisions annually. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority reports that in 2014, typical weekly ridership on heavy rail was 540,000. The most popular line is the Red Line, which carries 272,700 passengers each week.
If you have suffered injury as a result of an MBTA accident, contact the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone offices today.