Boston Big Dig tunnel death sparks another lawsuit

A Massachusetts man was killed in March when he crashed his pickup truck in a connector between the Sumner Tunnel and Storrow Drive in Boston and was ejected from the vehicle and fatally dismembered by the Big Dig tunnel system’s handrails. Now his widow has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the contractors who built the handrails.

The widow of the 39-year-old man who was killed seeks $2 million in compensatory damage as well as punitive damages. Public safety officials have dubbed the handrails “Ginsu guardrails” after eight motorists now have been killed after striking them since 2005.

Reportedly, the Boston Globe contacted safety experts last year who said that the design of the handrails posed a risk to drivers. Unlike many of the other vertical railing in the state, these have sharp edges and the spaces between the horizontal bars are wide enough for a person to become entangled between them, the experts said.

The handrails are intended to prevent construction workers in the tunnels from falling into traffic, but now state officials have said that thousands of feet of the railings throughout the Big Dig tunnel system will be removed or covered with chain fence to protect motorists.

The 39-year-old man, like many of the people who were killed by the handrails, was driving too fast and not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. He was killed in almost the exact same spot that another victim had been killed, the Boston Globe reported.

And while his widow acknowledges her husband had been speeding and was likely ejected from the vehicle because he was not wearing a seatbelt, in the lawsuit filed this week she argues that he would have survived had the handrail not been there.

In 2009, a state trooper was killed when he crashed his motorcycle into the railings, and the following year his family was awarded $9 million in a wrongful death settlement with the state and contractors.

Source: Boston Globe, “Widow sues over Big Dig’s ‘Ginsu guardrails’,” Matt Carroll, 5/11/2011.