While waiting for a train at the Union Square station last month, Michael Dion suffered one of the most horrific accidents a straphanger can experience. He may or may not have been drinking when he fell in between a train and the gap extenders on the southbound IRT express platform, and he was pinned there for 30 minutes. Onlookers and MTA employers tried to help, but it took a half an hour before someone could come to release the fillers.
Now we learn that Dion is suing the MTA and the New York City Transit Authority for $15 million in damages. According to The Post, the suit will a negligence claim on two grounds: “Dion accuses the agencies of being negligent for failing to install safety barriers that could have prevented him from falling into the gap and for failing to have trained workers on site who could have quickly extricated him.” His lawyer Jay Dankner compared Union Square unfavorably to the old South Ferry stop. “Why would you put [barriers] at South Ferry but not 14th Street?” he asked.
For the MTA — and more importantly, for farepayers who wind up footing this legal bill — this lawsuit puts them in a bad spot. Anyone at Union Square can tell you about the frequent announcements that urge straphangers, over and over again, to “please stand clear of the moving platform as trains enter and leave this station.” The issue of Dion’s sobriety at the time will come up as well. Yet, the MTA can’t protect passengers at one station and not another, and it shouldn’t take 30 minutes to find someone who can release the hydraulics in order to retract the gap fillers. It’s a messy situation all around, and Dion will get his payday.