SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 20, 2013

Trial to begin in case of Salem woman injured in T crash

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — This month is the four-year anniversary of the MBTA trolley accident caused by a distracted subway driver who texted his girlfriend right before the crash.

An estimated 50 riders went to the hospital on May 8, 2009, including Samantha Mattei of Salem, who was among the most seriously injured.

Over the past four years, several lawsuits against the T have been settled and at least one civil complaint has gone to trial, with a jury award of $1.2 million, which the MBTA said it planned to appeal.

Mattei’s case, however, has not been resolved. That could change this week.

Jury selection is expected to be completed today in Lawrence Superior Court in Mattei v. MBTA, a trial that was originally scheduled for last fall.

On the day of the accident, Mattei, now 23, had just finished the final day of her freshman year at Merrimack College. She and a friend were on their way to a concert in Boston that Friday night when their trolley car slammed into the rear of another T car at the Government Center station.

Riding in the front car, Mattei was tossed from her seat, striking her head on a metal pole and knocking her unconscious, according to a complaint filed in court.

Mattei suffered traumatic brain injuries and a fractured backbone, according to her attorney. Since the accident, she has suffered seizures and has received “supportive care,” he said.

“It was her goal to go to graduate school and become a research assistant or a medical doctor, and, of course, that won’t happen, according to her doctors,” attorney Paul Mitchell said in an interview last year.

The Salem News was not able to reach Mitchell on Friday.

The MBTA accepted legal responsibility but did not agree to “fair compensation” for Mattei, Mitchell said in the earlier interview.

In 2010, subway car driver Aiden Quinn admitted typing a text message to his girlfriend just before the trolley he was driving smashed into the rear of another T car at the Government Center station. He pleaded guilty to gross negligence and was sentenced to two years probation and 100 hours of community service.

Two dozen lawsuits have been filed against the MBTA, nine of which were settled for an average payout of $31,000, the T said last year.

In 2012, a Scituate woman was awarded $1.2 million by a Suffolk Superior Court jury in the first civil action stemming from the case.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.