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Lawsuits & Litigation

Family of Massachusetts Woman Killed by Manhole Cover Files Wrongful Death Suit

— February 21, 2019

The family of Caitlin M. Clavette, 35, is suing the Massachusetts Transportation Department for wrongful death and negligence regarding Clavette’s 2016 death.

How often do you think about the unexpected accident happening while driving? Chances are you rarely think that something as random as a manhole cover may catch you off guard and cause an accident, right? Chances are you drive with the peace of mind in knowing all those manholes you drive over or around each day are safely secured in place. Unfortunately, that’s not always so. In February 2016, Caitlin M. Clavette, 35, was struck and killed by a dislodged 200-pound manhole cover. Now, her family wants justice and filed a wrongful death suit against the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The MassDOT Kiosk outside of the Park Plaza headquarters
The MassDOT Kiosk outside of the Park Plaza headquarters; image courtesy of Whoisjohngalt via Wikimedia Commons,

According to the lawsuit, Clavette, who was an art teacher at the time of her death, was traveling on Interstate 93 inside the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Tunnel in Boston. While driving, the vehicle in front of her suddenly ran over a manhole cover. The cover became dislodged and was sent “flying through the driver’s side windshield of Clavette’s Honda CRV, where it struck her and then exited the rear of the car.”

The suit was filed in Suffolk Superior Court by Clavette’s father and brother, Leo J. Clavette Jr. and Andrew M. Clavette and names the transportation department, “AECOM Inc., a global engineering and consulting company from California, and Green International Affiliates Inc., a subcontractor working alongside AECOM for inspections of the I-93 Central Artery, as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the manhole cover was an accident waiting to happen because the “cast iron cover was not paired to and did not match the frame on which it was seated.” The suit further argued that the manhole cover and frame were “severely worn and deteriorated.” Despite this claim, AECOM “reported the manhole covers were in ‘good’ or ‘like new’ condition during inspections in 2011 and 2014,” even though it noted minor cracking during both inspections.

Because of this, the suit argues the defendants “failed to take proper and necessary precautions to prevent an obviously mismatched and severely deteriorated 200-pound manhole cover from posing a danger to the traveling public.” The suit further states that if the proper precautions had been taken, Clavette’s untimely death may have been prevented.

How have the defendants responded to the lawsuit? Well, so far a spokesman with the Transportation Department, Patrick Marvin, said, “Ms. Clavette’s death was a tragedy, and the Department’s sympathies remain with her family.” Marvin declined to comment further, noting the department’s policy regarding commenting on pending litigation. One of the other defendants also declined to comment, and the other hasn’t responded to requests for comment yet.


Family of woman killed by manhole cover files wrongful death suit

Family of Massachusetts Woman Killed by Manhole Cover Files Lawsuit

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