In 2009, there was a serious subway train crash that left 65 people injured and caused millions of dollars in damage. Last week, it was reported that the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the probable cause of the accident was the subway driver texting while operating the train.
In addition, the NTSB revealed that the driver had also called his girlfriend and left her a voice message just seconds before the accident that caused almost $10 million in damage occurred.
Apparently, the 24-year-old driver drove the trolley through red and yellow lights as texting caused him to “lose his situational awareness and his focus on operating the train,” the NTSB reported. The driver was fired immediately after the accident.
In December, the driver was sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty to gross negligence by a person in control of a common carrier.
In addition to criminal charges, it is also very likely that the driver could face personal injury lawsuits brought by those who were injured in the accident, especially after a national investigation revealed that his negligence in operating the train was the likely cause of the accident.
However, in a personal injury suit, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority would likely be the entity sued. This is because of the legal principal respondeat superior, which holds an employer legally responsible for the actions of an employee who was acting in within the scope of his employment.
The respondeat superior doctrine gives those injured in accidents a better change to recover damages, and encourages employers to properly train and supervise their employees.
Primary Source: Boston Herald, “NTSB: Texting T driver likely cause of crash,” 4/28/2011. Secondary Source: The Seattle Times, “NTSB cites texting trolley driver in Mass. Crash,” 4/28/2011.