Suit blames SEPTA for keeping train moving while impaired passenger perished

By Jon Campisi | Nov 2, 2011

A Delaware County, Pa. man has filed a wrongful death claim against SEPTA on behalf of his deceased relative, who passed away while riding a train operated by the public transit agency.

Peter B. Yeremian filed the federal complaint on behalf of Peter J. Yeremian, who died on Jan. 29 of last year after boarding the Route 100 train operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 1 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Philadelphia attorney Jeffrey M. Freedman.

The lawsuit doesn’t specifically state the nature of the relationship between the plaintiff, who has been assigned to handle the estate of the decedent, and the decedent himself.

According to the complaint, Peter J. Yeremian boarded the SEPTA train at about 8 in the evening at the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby, Pa.

The train operator at the time “observed and reported that, at the time of the boarding the train, plaintiff’s decedent was staggering and possibly intoxicated,” the lawsuit claims.

Peter J. Yeremian, who took a seat on the train about four rows from the rear, was discovered slouched over when the train arrived at the Norristown Transportation Center about 40 minutes later, the suit states. The train’s operator attempted to wake Yeremian up, but he was not successful.

After the train operator, identified in the lawsuit as Benjamin Huleatt, contacted SEPTA dispatch, he was told to return the train to the 69th Street Terminal where police would become involved in the matter, the lawsuit claims.

At about 9:20 p.m., it was determined that Yeremian had perished, the suit claims.

The complaint blames SEPTA for the death, saying that the man died as a result of the “defendant’s insistence on keeping its vehicle moving.”

“The defendant is a common carrier, and as such is required by law to use the highest degree of care for the safety of its passengers,” the lawsuit states. “Any failure of the defendant to use such care under the circumstances as pertinent herein constitutes negligence.”

The lawsuit further points out that the train operator had witnessed Yeremian get on the train, and had apparently been aware that the man was affected by some physical or mental disability because of his state or appearance at the time.

The complaint alleges that SEPTA breached its duty to the plaintiff’s decedent by failing to exercise the appropriate standard of care for the protection of Yeremian; acknowledging that the man had some sort of physical or mental disability that would have increased his travel difficulties, but then doing nothing to render aid or protection to him; failing to exercise reasonable care to secure the safety of Yeremian while under the care of the transportation agency; failing to take reasonable actions to protect Yeremian against unreasonable risk of physical harm; failing to render first aid to Yeremian; failing to care for Yeremian until he could be cared for by others; failing to establish written policies for SEPTA employees on what to do when confronted with an impaired passenger; and allowing to exist a system of disregard for the safety and protection of disabled passengers.

For each of the five counts list in the lawsuit, the plaintiff demands judgment against the defendant in a sum in excess of $150,000.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-06842-RB.

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