Bus, subway, and public transportation accident liability.
Litigating against Transportation Authorities is a unique experience and it is crucial to understand many of the differences between an Authority and a municipal corporate defendant. The first thing that a practitioner must know is that often there is a reduced statute of limitation generally of 1 year compared with a year and 90 days for the standard municipalities like the City of New York. They will often claim, whether they are entitled to it or not, that they are immune from liability due to Qualified Immunity. It is important that your attorney keep up with the most current case law to protect your rights.
At Roth & Roth not only are we keeping up with the most current case law but we are making it. Some of the cutting edge cases that we have handled have changed the landscape of the way cases are prosecuted and defended in transportation cases from buses to subways.
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More on municipal transit liability cases…
Some of the most difficult cases to prosecute are bus cases. There are many ways in which the bus companies, whether municipal or not, can attempt to avoid their negligence.
The law regarding bus accidents is especially difficult for passengers on buses. What many people do not know is that if a passenger on a bus is injured and they have a household vehicle, the household vehicle’s insurance pays the 1st party benefits, medicals, etc.
Roth & Roth has successfully prosecuted a number of bus cases including:
- A passenger on a bus stepped out of the bus onto a broken sidewalk. The City and the Transit Authority each paid 50% for the injuries suffered by plaintiff.
- A bus was struck by a taxi. We represented the bus driver who had back surgery 5 years after the accident. The case was resolved successfully against the taxi company.
- A bus stopped short. The Transit Authority claimed it was not the bus operator’s fault because a mechanical feature in the bus’ rear door known as the interlock mechanism engaged on the bus, causing the bus to stop. Roth & Roth won liability on behalf of Plaintiff Saundra Crane who was injured and were sustained at the appellate level. Crane v NYCTA. The Interlock defense is the subject of an article written by David Roth and published in the New York State Trial Lawyers quarterly magazine, Bill of Particulars.
Traumatic Brain Injury Cases
Thousands of train-related accidents take place each year resulting in injuries to passengers in the subway system. The Transit Authority is responsible for the maintenance of the subway system and may be held responsible for any injuries suffered by subway riders due to the TA’s negligence.
A number of injuries can be sustained in the subway system due to being struck by the train, falling from the platform, falling victim to faulty turnstyle or train doors, falling into the gap between the train and the platform, and more. Roth & Roth has successfully handled many subway cases and has taken the lead in developing the prosecution of injuries due to the gap between the train and the platform.
Notable subway cases:
- A woman in a wheelchair encountered a tremendous gap in Times Square Station and her wheelchair got stuck between the train and platform causing her wheelchair to tip over. Through motion practice the case was won. The Transit Authority (TA) appealed, but lost. This win not only resulted in the resolution of the case but also signs being placed in the subway system to protect wheelchair bound passengers.
- A woman tripped and fell due to vertical gap between the subway platform and the train. The Transit Authority claimed that they had a valid internal safety policy regarding the acceptable distance between a platform and a subway car. After due diligence we discovered that for years the Transit Authority has been hiding the fact that they failed to do any study whatsoever to determine what would be a safe distance between the edge of the platform and the subway door. These cases have been successfully defended by the Transit Authority for years until we discovered the secret that the Transit Authority has been hiding: that they relied upon just a 12 page memo without a single measurement to set the policy presiding over the safety requirements for over a billion subway passengers a year riding the subway. Since our discovery the landscape has been changed and plaintiffs not only in our case but other cases have had a greater chance to win.
- A woman was caused to fall going down subway station stairs due to debris on subway steps. Defendant Transit Authority failed to clean the steps despite it being a busy subway station. Our injured client was able to recover due to the depositions taken by our office establishing that the TA failed to clean despite their own schedules in place resulting in an award that satisfied our client.
Federal Transit Administration
FTA is one of 11 operating administrations within the U.S. Department of Transportation with over 500 employees located in Washington, DC and 10 regional offices across the nation. As authorized by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users of 2005 (SAFETEA-LU), the FTA provides stewardship of combined formula and discretionary programs totaling more than $10B to support a variety of locally planned, constructed, and operated public transportation systems throughout the United States. Transportation systems typically include buses, subways, light rail, commuter rail, streetcars, monorail, passenger ferry boats, inclined railways, or people movers.
American Public Transportation Association
APTA is the leading force in advancing public transportation.
APTA members are public organizations that are engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne passenger services, and high-speed rail. Members also include large and small companies who plan, design, construct, finance, supply, and operate bus and rail services worldwide. Government agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, state departments of transportation, academic institutions, and trade publications are also part of our membership.
To strengthen and improve public transportation, APTA serves and leads its diverse membership through advocacy, innovation and information sharing. APTA and its members and staff work to ensure that public transportation is available and accessible for all Americans in communities across the country.
Office Of The Inspector General – MTA
The Inspector General’s Office carries out its mission through the work of the Investigative Unit, Audit and Analysis Unit , and Intake and Intelligence Unit. These Units receive technical and administrative support from the Systems and Administrative Services staff. OIG is staffed by investigators, attorneys, information technology specialists, performance auditors, and accountants.
OIG monitors the activities of the MTA in providing a safe, reliable, clean and affordable public transportation system in the New York City metropolitan area, and works to reduce fraud, abuse and waste throughout that system. Through its investigations, audits, and other studies, OIG works to help MTA improve its performance and to enhance the quality, efficiency, effectiveness and safety of its agencies’ operations
Public Transportation Safety Board
The Public Transportation Safety Board (PTSB) was created in 1984 and is the first board of its kind in the nation. The PTSB is statutorily responsible for the safety oversight of all public transportation systems operating in New York State that receive State Transit Operating Assistance (STOA).
- The mission of the PTSB is to reduce the number, rate and severity of public transportation accidents. The PTSB has broad, legislatively mandated powers to enable it to fulfill its mission, including:
- Establishing accident reporting, investigation and analysis procedures
- Conducting comprehensive accident investigations
- Taking a proactive role in public safety by reviewing, approving and monitoring system safety program plans submitted by each public transportation system
- Conducting system safety program field audits
- Analyzing critical safety issues and concerns
- Recommending the establishment of new safety legislation, rules and regulations, and transportation system procedures based on accident investigations, special studies and audits
Deposing the Corporate/Municipal Record Keeper in a Personal Injury Case
By David A. Roth, Esq.
There is nothing exciting or the slightest bit interesting about preparing for or deposing a record keeper; it is a numbing task that most of us come to dread. For that reason, there are not many resources or guides for these types of depositions. As a result, they often become routinely boring and needlessly fruitless.
Typically, institutional defendants in New York City – such as Consolidated Edison, NYCTA, or the City of New York – will produce witnesses who are only knowledgeable about a small piece of the puzzle which faces any plaintiff who is trying to establish a claim. Counsel will be examining an employee who either: knows nothing about the happening of the occurrence or condition of the location; claims to know nothing about the occurrence but knows something about the location/instrumentality involved generally; or is primarily being produced as a record keeper/searcher even though they may not be cognizant of the creation, management, form, content, storage or location of the very records that they have searched. In this world of bureaucratic recordkeeping, the one who generates records or inspection reports usually has no idea what happens to them after they are created. Though a witness may claim to have only peripheral knowledge of the procedures and records regarding the cause of a client’s accident, in fact that very witness can be a goldmine of information. The witnesses that are produced often have worked for the defendant for years, yet they claim to have no knowledge of the issue on which they are being questioned and will testify that they have no idea about certain things that they simply should know. They testify as if they get to their post by walking with blinders on, only being able to actually see again once they get to the location where they are stationed. When faced with these witnesses with “limited” knowledge, it is important to have the right mindset to get the most out of the deposition. There is always something to be learned from these witnesses, but by easing up on probing questioning you will learn only what the defendant wants you to.
In preparation for any deposition, first you need to recognize and prepare for the traps set by the defendants. Once you recognize them, you must be careful not to fall into a pattern of questioning that can lead to a very limited amount of information being uncovered. Asking tight and narrow questions is helpful when the witness claims to have knowledge, but when the witness is either being obviously evasive or is claiming to know almost nothing, you will fail to explore pertinent overlapping trails of important information unless you open up the scope of your questioning.
Getting In Through the Back Door – The Transit Authority’s Interlock Defense Exposed
By David A. Roth, Esq.
In our practice we have found that litigation against municipalities is fraught with unusual difficulties and obstacles, but none so much as pursuing a claim against the New York City Transit Authority. The Transit Authority [hereinafter, “TA”] consistently stalls, frustrates, and simply fails to provide meaningful responses to discovery no matter how many discovery demands, conferences, motions or Orders are made. After many years of following how the Courts countenance – sometimes grudgingly, sometimes not – these tactical discovery abuses, it has become clear to us that the way to successfully prosecute a TA claim is to follow up on all discovery orders and depositions to the utmost, requiring full substantive as well as technical compliance with the CPLR as well
as other applicable statutes and rules. Assurances and promises accepted from – or courtesies extended to – others in similar situations might prove to be counterproductive and even fatal where the TA is the defendant. This is not necessarily volitional on the part of the attorney you will face, as much of the TA’s sleight of hand has been institutionalized to occur before the lawyers ever get involved. Our small office has found instances of the TA:
1. Sending someone to hospitals to check on people who are injured in accidents and gaining access to them by showing badges as if they are there under the color of law enforcement authority.
2. Calling their dispatcher and then the ambulance to the scene of a single vehicle accident in which people on a bus are injured, though the police are not called by the Transit Authority.
3. Routinely coercing plaintiffs to go forward with depositions without providing the properly requested and long-overdue discovery necessary in order to conduct those depositions meaningfully.
4. Disclosing discovery on the eve of or during trial – often specifically seeking to introduce to its own benefit documents or witnesses that it had specifically warranted did not exist, were destroyed, or were overly burdensome to compile when plaintiff requested it.
In light of this – and more – the need has become obvious to keep pressing for everything that the Plaintiffs are entitled to under the law. This dogged pursuit of discovery has led us to uncover the truth behind the “interlock defense” to claims of bus accident liability.
Municipal Discovery: A Comprehensive Analysis
By David A. Roth, Esq. & Joshua N. Stein, Esq.
Does this scenario sound familiar? It’s the day before trial, and in the morning, you are scheduled to select a jury in a case against any one of a variety of potential municipal defendants, when lo and behold, at 4:00 p.m., a hundred pages of discovery comes through your fax machine. Had you received the records earlier, they might have helped your case or led to more critical discovery. You peruse the records, steam coming out of your ears. You say to yourself: “I demanded this discovery three years and three motions to strike/compel ago!!” Although you dust off your best motion in limine to preclude the newly served evidence and to strike the defendant’s answer for its willful and contumacious failure to provide these records, you realize full well that the chances of winning that motion are slim.
In Court, the first argument that defense counsel makes is: “You never demanded these specific records. We gave you all of the records you demanded.” Never mind that the records fall squarely within any remote interpretation of your discovery demands. The matter is now within the discretion of the Court, which may not comprehend how badly prejudiced the plaintiff is by the late disclosure. Often, instead of precluding the records, precluding the testimony, or striking the
defendant’s answer, the Court rewards the municipal defendant with more delays and ordering further discovery to take place either before or during the trial. This is a win for the municipalities as they put up no reserves, and each delay is a victory.
Let Roth and Roth help you with a traumatic brain injury case.