- May 17, 2022
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Premises Liability
This blog has reported time after time (after time, after time), on the MARTA transportation system’s abysmal safety record. After each new tragic incident, we’ve had to draw the frustrating conclusion that not much has changed, and not much appears to be changing.
At long last, this pattern may have broken.
Right now, the transit system is working with multiple private consulting firms, at a cost of $2.2 million, to overhaul its safety and incident-response policies.
Of course, MARTA did not initiate this process without extreme pressure, and its management does not seem to be taking it well.
Whistleblowers and Grieving Families Brought Attention to Dangerous Conditions
It should come as no surprise that civil lawsuits played a pivotal role in breaking down MARTA’s safety complacency.
Specifically, several MARTA contractors have been fatally struck by trains while performing ordered work on the tracks and stations. Through litigation, MARTA has been forced to pay compensation for these wrongful deaths. One family received $10.5 million for an accident that took place in 2000, and another received $17 million for an accident in 2018.
A former safety officer is also suing for wrongful termination, stating that he was fired for pointing out safety violations.
While the primary purpose of civil litigation is to compensate victims, it can also spur future change. In this case, the legal recognition of MARTA’s responsibilities and failings seems to have laid the foundation for some much-needed scrutiny of the service as a whole.
GDOT and OSHA Are Both Investigating
In response to the most recent safety complaints against MARTA, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) performed an audit. Observations from that audit include:
- Failure to institute recommended safety improvements after the 2018 fatality
- Illegal work schedules for safety officers, including a lack of breaks
- A toxic culture that intimidates officers into ignoring safety violations
- MARTA managers showing dismissiveness of GDOT’s authority on safety matters
In response, MARTA seems to be doubling down on this alleged dismissiveness, by claiming that GDOT’s investigation is “flawed and biased” and encroaches on OSHA’s authority.
OSHA is indeed investigating many overlapping claims, as it should. Worker deaths and alleged labor law violations are important parts of the issue at hand. However, MARTA’s treatment of its safety officers also impacts the safety of passengers and bystanders. These public safety issues fall outside of OSHA’s jurisdiction.
In spite of the complaints of MARTA management, GDOT has already ordered some changes, including the hiring of the independent safety consultants.
Existing MARTA Accident Victims Still Have the Right to Sue
As promising as all of this is, adequate change is unlikely to happen overnight. For now, trains and buses are continuing to operate more or less as normal, and MARTA seems intent on resisting meaningful improvements every step of the way.
Even if a perfect transit system could be unveiled tomorrow, it wouldn’t erase the harm that has already been done. Many metro Atlanta locals have already lost limbs and loved ones, not to mention countless hours and dollars spent on recuperation.
For existing MARTA victims, filing a lawsuit remains the most effective option, both for covering personal expenses, and for keeping the momentum of change going.
If you have been injured, or if a member of your family has died, due to problems with MARTA’s safety or security standards, reach out to The Stoddard Firm to discuss possible next steps.