Widow of man killed in tunnel crash files suit

SALEM – The widow of a Salem man killed in a horrific accident in a connector between the Sumner Tunnel and Storrow Drive in Boston has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against eight Big Dig contractors over the design of handrails that had contributed to the deaths of at least seven others.

Brian Hicks was killed on March 27 after he struck a Jersey barrier inside the connector tunnel, lost control of his pickup and was ejected. Hicks, 39, a married father of one, became entangled in the razor-sharp handrails. He was the eighth person to die on what some have dubbed the “Ginsu guardrails.”

In a lawsuit filed Monday in Suffolk Superior Court, Hicks’ widow, Donna, and Peabody lawyer Barry Feinstein allege that the eight Big Dig contractors knew the design of the railings was inherently dangerous but have failed to take any action to address the problem despite the deaths.

Feinstein said Hicks, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt and may have been going too fast for the curve, might well have survived the crash but for the fact that he hit the railings.

The lawsuit seeks just under $2 million in actual damages plus additional damages to be determined by a jury.

The lawsuit names Bechtel Corp., Parsons Brinckerhoff Americas, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, GMT Architects Inc., Tuttle Aluminum and Bronze Inc., McCourt Construction Co. Inc., Obayaski Corp., and McCourt/Obayaski.

The railings, which have come under scrutiny after a series of fatal crashes — one involving a state trooper on a motorcycle — were installed to protect workers walking along the sides of the tunnel.

According to a review conducted by the state last month, the railings and attached concrete barriers comply with federal worker safety requirements and the state building code.

However, that review recommended that the railings be removed in certain locations, that other sections be fitted with some sort of chain-link fencing or mesh, and that signs warning of curves and the speed limit be improved, measures that “may potentially mitigate certain types of injuries” received in crashes involving motorcycles or in cases where a driver or passenger are ejected.

Feinstein said the estimated cost of implementing one suggestion, covering the railings, is $875,000, a fraction of the nearly $22 billion spent on the project.

Hicks, who had been struggling to find work before his death, had recently been offered a job as a contractor in Afghanistan working on that country’s infrastructure, something Feinstein called a “tragic and cruel irony.”

Last fall, the widow of a state police trooper killed by one of the guardrails after a crash won a $9 million settlement from the state and the same Big Dig contractors being sued by Hicks.