What Happens After the Trolley Crash?

Everybody who lives in the Greater Boston area knows by now that a T trolley car operator smashed into the rear of a stopped trolley because he was allegedly texting a messge to his girlfriend. According to reports, nearly thirty people were injured. What most people probably don’t know are the details of the lawsuits that are sure to follow. Injured plaintiffs will want to reach the “deep pockets” (despite their perpetual debt, the T can and has paid out a lot of money as a result of lawsuits) of the transit authority.

There are two ways the T can be reached: (1) when the operator is sued, the T, as his employer, is “vicariously liable” for his negligence if a jury finds that the operator was negligent; (2) if the T is alleged to be negligent itself in its hiring, training, or oversight capacities. Alleging that the T was independently negligent has the tactical advantage of erasing any sympathy there may be for the “little guy,” although this case may be one where such sympathy is absent.

No injured passenger should count on a prompt and fair settlement. The T has a reputation for fighting claims that it should settle, often paying far more of the taxpayers’ money after a jury verdict than a prompt settlement would have cost. If Governor Patrick has his way, the T will be protected by the state $100,000 tort cap, allowing it to endanger the public with little concern over the consequences.

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