New York State’s highest court, The Court of Appeals, has upheld a jury’s verdict finding that a NYCTA Train Operator negligently ran over a subway patron. Robert Obey, homeless, suffered a partially severed left foot as a result.
In January of 2014, a New York County jury returned a verdict of $1,950,000.00 against the New York City Transit Authority. The same jury also held the NYCTA 40% at fault for failing to stop a subway train before striking a homeless man who was between the tracks at the 33rd Street station on March 9, 2006.
The NYCTA claimed that the accident was entirely the homeless man’s own fault. They argued that the homeless man, 51 years old at the time, had just left a Methadone clinic, had taken illegal street drugs that morning which made him drowsy and dizzy, had told a social worker in the hospital that the accident was his own fault because he had taken drugs and was standing too close to the edge of the platform, had taken drugs his entire adult life, had been institutionalized, and that he had attempted suicide multiple times before the accident. One month before the accident this homeless man went down onto the tracks in a different subway station to retrieve a MetroCard and then lied telling a Police Officer that he had fallen onto the tracks.
The homeless man’s attorney, Mark R. Bernstein, Esq, of Mineola, Long Island, urged the jury to find that the train operator’s conduct was inexcusable in seeing the homeless man on the tracks before striking him, running the train over him, making the stop at the station, and then running the train over him again while leaving the station before finally calling in a “body” on the tracks. Mr. Bernstein said, “We are all equal- it doesn’t matter who is on the tracks or why, you have to stop the train.”
The trial judge overturned the jury’s verdict and dismissed the case, ignoring the jury’s findings. An Appeal was taken from that decision to first level Appellate Court. That Appellate Court agreed with the trial judge, disregarded the jury’s finding, and upheld the trial judge’s dismissal of this case.
A further Appeal was taken to New York State’s highest court, The Court of Appeals. New York’s highest Court re-instated the jury’s verdict holding that there was sufficient evidence to hold NYCTA responsible for failing to stop the train before striking the homeless man.
“No one else wanted to help this homeless man in his fight against the Transit Authority,” said Stanley J. Sanders, Esq., the founding partner of this firm. “Sometimes, you have to fight the fight,” he said. “The trial judge should never have disregarded the jury’s verdict, we fought until the end, and we won.” “This case should send a message to the Transit Authority that people’s lives are more important than keeping a train schedule.”