Court sets aside $1.2M award to woman on trolley that crashed after driver texted girlfriend

Associated Press

A state appeals court panel on Monday set aside a $1.2 million jury award and ordered a new trial in a lawsuit filed by a passenger on a trolley that crashed moments after its driver sent a text message to his girlfriend.

Colleen Fyffe, of Scituate, sued the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, saying she was unable to return to her job with Delta Airlines at Logan International Airport as a result of the neck injury she suffered in the 2009 accident in the Government Center subway tunnel.

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The three-judge panel, in a 2-1 decision, cited "transgressions" by Fyffe's attorney during the 2012 trial, among them improperly arguing facts that were not in evidence and willfully disregarding rulings issued by the judge in the trial.

"Ultimately, we conclude that the judge's efforts to address the numerous and repeated violations of the law by plaintiff's counsel fell short," appeals court Justice Peter Agnes wrote for the majority.

A message left for attorney Michael Rezendes, who represented Fyffe during the trial, was not immediately returned.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Malcolm Graham said he was not convinced that the lawyer's actions were enough to taint the jury's decision.

The trolley operator, Aiden Quinn, admitted he was texting his girlfriend just before the Green Line crash. He was fired and later sentenced to two years of probation after pleading guilty to negligence. The case led to new regulations prohibiting MBTA drivers from carrying cellphones on the job.

The jury that awarded Fyffe the $1.2 million was told before the trial that negligence by the operator caused the crash and the only issue was the amount of compensation Fyffe should receive for her injuries. Lawyers for the MBTA, who questioned the severity of Fyffe's injuries, appealed the award.

Attorney Thomas Murphy, who represented Fyffe during the appellate review, said he planned to ask the state's highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court, to reinstate the judgment.