Widow of late journalism professor files lawsuit against MBTA

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Moses Shumow was struck by a Commuter Rail train at the Beverly T stop. Jakob Menendez / Beacon Staff

By Adri Pray, News Editor

The widow of late Emerson journalism professor Moses Shumow filed a lawsuit against the MBTA on Sept. 26 seeking damages for his death after he was struck by a train at the Beverly Depot train station.

On Oct. 22, 2019, Moses Shumow rode his bike to the Beverly Depot commuter rail station to catch his train when he was struck and killed by a train while using the pedestrian crossing.

The lawsuit alleges the train never alerted Shumow of its presence as no horn or signals announced the arrival or departure of the train. He noticed the train too late, being directly in front of it on the tracks when he saw it. 

“At the Beverly Depot, pedestrians are permitted to cross in front of the oncoming trains, which causes a dangerous condition to exist,” the lawsuit reads. 

The lawsuit—which was also filed against Keolis Commuter Services LLC, the train operator Nathan Drown, and the City of Beverly, MA—levies one count of negligence against each defendant and one count of gross negligence, willful, wanton, and reckless conduct against Keolis Commuter Services, the MBTA, and the City of Beverly, respectively.

The plaintiff, Rose Shumow, is requesting the award of compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants, the award of the cost of action, including attorney’s fees, and the award of further relief as the court deems necessary.

In the 10 years prior to the incident, five pedestrians were struck by trains at the Beverly Depot, and several other public transportation-related injuries and fatalities occurred within the City of Beverly.

The lawsuit lists the Federal Railroad Administration’s “Guidelines on Pedestrian Crossing Safety at or Near Passenger Stations,” pointing to Keolis’ policy and custom to sound the horn when entering passenger stations, which both state and federal law requires. Drown did not sound the horn in the appropriate time frame of at least 15 seconds or 1,320 feet before arriving at the station.

The City of Beverly banned the use of train horns within city limits, though numerous officials warned of the importance of maintaining safety at all pedestrian crossings, specifically citing how dangerous horn bans were to public safety.

Previously, the City of Beverly exempted itself from the law requiring train horns by claiming to have applied for “Quiet Zone” status with the Department of Telecommunications and Energy. As part of the investigation into the requirements of a “Quiet Zone,” officials required the station to establish safety measures at each grade crossing to mitigate risk to pedestrians, and the DTE evaluated a number of factors to determine whether the specific crossing qualified as one of these zones.

The lawsuit alleges the City of Beverly omitted material information and data that would have altered the DTE to the disqualification for a “Quiet Zone,” as they submitted a risk analysis for only 17 of the 26 crossings in Beverly. Consequently, the DTE did not evaluate the nine other crossings and approved the “Quiet Zone.”