Horrific MBTA Red Line Death Poses More Questions Than Answers:  Is Safety Really The T’s Priority?

As a Massachusetts catastrophic injury attorney, I see the real-life consequences of a lot of terrible accidents that were caused by someone else’s negligence.  I see these consequences in the eyes and the lives of my clients, who have to bear these consequences, sometimes for the rest of their lives.  Often these catastrophic accidents involve the death of the victim, and that is always a tragedy.

But each case is unique, and sometimes the tragedy is even more pronounced.  That appears to be the case in the death of Robinson Lalin, a 39 year-old father of five children.  Mr. Lalin was killed this past Sunday early morning when, according to all reports as of today, his arm became trapped in a Red Line subway car as it exited the Broadway T Station.  According to reports, Mr. Lalin was dragged to the end of the platform to his death, his arm being severed before his torso was crushed by the train’s exterior walls.  The damage to his body was so severe that his funeral services will reportedly not allow for an open casket.

Mr. Lain’s family is demanding answers from the T as to how this horrific event could have happened.  And so far, they aren’t getting much.  The T has reportedly only issued comments that both the operator of the train involved, and the train car itself, have been “removed from service.”  Other than that, the T has been tight-lipped.  The federal National Transportation Safety Board has now become involved.

As an MBTA accident lawyer, I’ve seen this kind of response from the T before.  The T is notoriously slow to respond to injury claims suffered by passengers, usually only responding after a lawsuit has been filed, or their delaying tactics are revealed by the media.  The T is also known in legal circles for fighting injury claims very aggressively:  Rather than settle injury claims responsible and fairly, they try to wear plaintiffs’ and their lawyers down as much as they can.

Legally speaking, someone who has been injured on the T, or the family of someone who has died as the result of injuries suffered while using the T, must first prove that the T was negligent before they can recover for damages. Very briefly, the injured person or the family of the deceased must prove that the T:

  • Had a duty of care to provide reasonable safety to the injured passenger
  • That the T breached (failed) that duty
  • That the T’s breach of that duty caused the injured or deceased person to suffer the resulting harm.

That’s about as brief a legal description of “negligence’ as this short post will allow.  These types of cases are also referred to as “wrongful death” cases.

The T is legally required to make certain that safety equipment on its trains are operating efficiently.  Concerning subway car doors, the surface edges the train doors are required to have sensors on them, and open if the sensors detect anything in their way.  If the train doors do detect something, they are not supposed to close or lock. The trains and the equipment on them, including the doors, are not manufactured by the T, but bought from a manufacturing company that builds trains.  If the safety equipment is found to be defective, that creates another potential defendant that may be sued for damages – that is good for the victim or his family, as those companies carry high amounts of liability insurance – which can pay for damages to the victim’s family.

The answers to these and other important questions will come from a thorough investigation – an investigation conducted by the law firm that represents Mr. Lalin’s family.  This investigative process is critical – not “just any” law firm knows how to do this in a way that produces maximum legal results, and I hope that Mr. Lalin’s family, after they process their grief, can connect with such a firm.  They need the best MBTA accident firm possible:  One that can demonstrate a proven track record with these wrongful death cases.

A GoFundMe has reportedly been set up to help pay for Mr. Lalin’s funeral expenses.   My thoughts and prayers to his family.