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Audit Calls to Attention Safety Concerns with MARTA

Metro Atlanta’s popular public rail system, MARTA, may be in hot water after results from a 2010 audit revealed some concerning safety issues. An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said that the audit pointed to several problems including: the death of a homeless man on MARTA rails, faulty indicator lights on the trains and a “near miss” accident between a train and work vehicle in a MARTA rail yard. Frequent MARTA patrons might be able to point to some additional issues, with faulty escalators being at the top of the list. In fact, the 2008 death of a transit man in the Georgia State University station occurred when the man fell on an escalator and was strangled when his clothing was pulled into the escalator combs. A MARTA police officer patrolling the station did not properly inspect the platform before the station closed and thus failed to discover the deceased man.

Wrongful death attorneys familiar with the system’s history know it was the second time such an accident occurred within almost as many years. In 2005, another man lost his life in much the same manner, with one difference. In that earlier case, a MARTA attendant was present and able to press the Emergency button, stopping the escalator. Since the audit results were obtained, MARTA officials have cited a dearth of resources as the reason for the late discovery. Regardless of the number of officers available at the time of the2008 accident, that particular MARTA officer was charged with a duty that he failed to execute. A proper inspection may have resulted in timely medical attention for the decedent and proper review and maintenance of the security tapes may have yielded information that could prevent future incidents. Instead, the tape that captured the transit man’s death was “destroyed as part of regular maintenance” – an event that clearly points to much deeper problems.

There have been other MARTA escalator accidents as well. In 2007, at least 11 people were injured on a MARTA escalator as a result of faulty braking systems and a weak motor. In 2008, a woman was awarded $525,000 in Fulton County for injuries she sustained in an accident at the Peachtree Center MARTA stop. Such incidents are not abnormal and seem to be a growing trend nation-wide, especially with an increase in the demand for public transportation. Many people, especially those in sprawling cities like Metro Atlanta, depend on public rail as their primary method of travel and more importantly, they rely on its safety.

It’s for this reason that many Atlanta public transportation attorneys find the “lack of resources” mantra to be a poor excuse, especially since MARTA had previously discussed improving its policies and posting more agents throughout its stations. State and federal laws regulate rail companies and the duty of care they must meet to protect the public, including safety precautions, preventative measures and response to known dangers. This means that MARTA patrons are owed a duty of protection as invitees of the public rail entity, and MARTA, as a common carrier, must meet those standards of care or potentially be held liable for accidents or face wrongful death lawsuits.