A tragic accident at the Meridian Street drawbridge crushed a woman and killed her.
The woman was crossing the drawbridge when it began rising for a boat. When the drawbridge was raised, the woman fell and was crushed by the bridge, according The Boston Herald.
Although officials are classifying the death as an accident, Boston's Public Works Department could be liable for the woman's death.
Who's at Fault?
Boston's Public Works (BPW) Department runs the Meridian Street drawbridge, reports The Boston Globe, so the BPW responsible for bridge maintenance and keeping it safe for pedestrians. Under premise liability laws, owners of the property are liable for accidents and injuries that occur on their grounds.
In this case, pedestrians are allowed to walk on the drawbridge to get from East Boston to Chelsea, reports the Herald. Since the deceased woman was legally allowed to be on the bridge, the public works department is required to make sure it's safe.
The BPW is also responsible for properly training its drawbridge operators. Meridian Street drawbridge operators undergo extensive training provided by a contractor, BEC Electrical Inc., reports the Globe. The training lays out 20 steps that must be completed before the bridge is raised to ensure that there are no pedestrians or cars still present.
One of the rules requires that the bridge operator "zoom in" on the cameras to visually check for pedestrians and vehicle traffic, reports the Globe. However, reports indicate that the deceased woman was in the operator's blind spot.
If the BPW failed to take reasonable safety precautions to avoid the woman's crushing death, then it could be liable to her family under wrongful death laws.
Under wrongful death laws, the surviving members of the deceased's family can sue if the death was caused by someone else's negligence. For the drawbridge accident, BPW had a duty to make sure that the bridge was safe for pedestrians. If they acted unreasonably in implementing its own safety precautions which lead to the woman's death, the department could be found negligent and the family would be entitled to compensation.
The BPW is awaiting reports from the police and OSHA before determining if changes should be made to its bridge operating procedures, reports the Globe.
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