In 2009, MBTA trolley operator Aiden Quinn allowed the Green Line trolley he was piloting to slam into the back of another trolley in an underground tunnel. The accident caused injuries of nearly 50 passengers on the trolleys, including a neck injury sustained by Colleen Fyffe.
Fyffe filed a negligence suit against MBTA claiming injuries prevented her from returning to work with Delta airlines after the accident, and was awarded $1.2 million, reports The Associated Press. Quinn admitted to texting his girlfriend at the time of the accident and pleaded guilty to criminal negligence.
Even so, Joe Pesaturo, MBTA spokesman told the Boston Globe that the T would be appealing because 9 of 24 lawsuits arising out of the accident have settled for an average of $31,000 each.
What could an appeals court decide to do?
In the personal injury world, damages are always tricky to calculate because there are so many variables. A number can be reached by adding together estimates made by experts and the plaintiffs themselves. These estimates are then presented to the jury who then decides exactly how much a plaintiff should receive.
Once a plaintiff has received a jury award, it is possible for the defendant to appeal not only the actual finding of liability, but that the damages are unreasonable or unwarranted. If the appeals court finds that the award is not warranted on the basis of the trial court record, it can order a remittitur, which is merely a reduction in the award that the plaintiff receives.
Here, if the trial record clearly shows that Fyffe could not go back to work and is permanently disabled, it is possible that the damage award will stand. However, if the amount of damages is very high because of sympathy from the jury which influenced the damages award, it will be possible that the appeals court could require a remittitur.
One good thing to come out of this horrible accident is that it caused a policy change for T drivers who are no longer allowed to bring cell phones to work. Because after all, it seems to be more important to make sure your passengers are not injured in another Green Line crash than to text your girlfriend about how boring operating the T is.
- Get a Hold of a Boston Personal Injury Lawyer (FindLaw)
- Jury says MBTA owes Passenger $1.2m (Boston Globe)
- Can The Cyclist Hit on Bourne Bridge Recover Damages? (Boston Personal Injury News)
- Boston Trolley Accident Injures 49: Can Passengers Sue? (FindLaw's Injured Blog)