Home Asides Man crushed by Union Sq. platform extenders set to sue

Man crushed by Union Sq. platform extenders set to sue

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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noah January 20, 2011 - 12:34 pm

Really though?? millions of people have used that station over and over again, and i’m sure the barriers to protect people at the old south street station were to protect people from a different thing than what the issue is at union square. also, nobody should even be standing near the platform edge, moving or stationary, in the first place. Plus He Was Drunk!! it sounds like an open and shut case, and a waste of tax payer money. this idiot should be banned from new york city, you want to be somewhere idiot proof, then leave nyc!!!

R. Graham January 20, 2011 - 12:59 pm

At the old South Ferry Station, if not for the barriers you could technically walk from solid platform and then right off a cliff of a gap where a retracted gap filler is in place. The angles at Union Square are no where near as extreme and you can walk the edge of that platform completely without meeting the same cliff like extreme as the gap fillers themselves tend to be somewhat curved.

There is no merit in this case at all. The 30 minute wait is bad, but that’s only worth the MTA paying his medical bills. Why does the MTA have to be held responsible because you can’t hold your liquor? I should jump in this and sue him for not being able to hold is liquor while using public transportation. Next time CALL A CAB!

Red January 20, 2011 - 1:11 pm

There may arguably be no merit, but as Ben says if you look at similar lawsuits, that has not stopped juries from holding the MTA at least partially responsible, to the tune of millions of dollars.

R. Graham January 20, 2011 - 1:28 pm

I don’t disagree with that fact. In fact I believe this jerk is going to win. I doesn’t matter if the MTA proves the differences between South Ferry and Union Square. It doesn’t matter if the MTA shows rock hard stats showing how infrequently this actually happens at Union Square and in comparison to other stations where people randomly slip a leg into the gap between the platform and train at normal stations.

The main reason this clown is going to win is because of the 30 minute wait. It won’t matter if the MTA proves that due to the “old” technology of the fillers and this is just me making up a defense mind you, that they can’t keep even one person on staff to service the fillers regularly this guy is going to win because he suffered pain for an extended period of time.

It won’t matter that he was drunk the jury is going to give him at least 2 million dollars. The legislature really needs to put together a law protecting the MTA from lawsuits from people who can’t protect themselves.

paulb January 20, 2011 - 1:30 pm

Why is 20 to 30 minutes to extricate Dion ipso facto unreasonable? Emergency responders at car accidents may take more time than that to extricate a victim. There is high voltage electricity present. Releasing the extenders too quickly or carelessly might cause worse injury. The employee has to watch their own safety, too.

With the purchase of an airline ticket a passenger is agreeing to certain limitations of liability. It’s part of the international rules governing air travel. Why not a plain statement regarding the subway that passengers must understand that many of its parts (like the Union Square station) were constructed more than 100 years ago and do not meet contemporary standards of safety. And, make it explicit, there is a higher burden of watchfulness on the passenger at certain locations and a lower burden of liability for the NY TA.

Oh, why bother. The jury will just order he be paid his billion dollars.

Andrew January 20, 2011 - 10:14 pm

Is there any indication that Dion’s injuries were any worse due to the 30-minute wait?

PW January 20, 2011 - 1:47 pm

Definitely some distraction involved. Drinking, typing on phone, etc. He deserves squat but will get millions. Ugh!

Andrew January 20, 2011 - 1:56 pm

There are plenty of accidents where the MTA is at fault, this does not seem to be one of them.

There is one staircase from the street to the platform at Prospect Ave on the 4th Ave BMT in Brooklyn. The MTA needs to be able to spend money to ensure that there are safe and multiple means egress in each station, not paying off people who are incapable of protecting themselves.

AlexB January 20, 2011 - 2:27 pm

This guy probably doesn’t deserve much, if anything. I don’t think the MTA is blameless, though. During the blizzard, some of the stairways were in horrendous shape, both in terms of being shoveled and in terms of their general upkeep. I am surprised 20 people didn’t slip and crack their heads open in the first couple days after the blizzard. There really are some nasty situations in a lot of stations.

R. Graham January 20, 2011 - 4:02 pm

But that has nothing to do with this situation. This guy was drunk on the platform.

noah January 20, 2011 - 11:30 pm

exactly!! this is the kind of thing people should be suing for!, not for slipping off of a purpose built platform with no faults whatsoever.

BrooklynBus January 20, 2011 - 4:24 pm

Strange that no one or article mentioned the guy’s injuries. I thought he was very badly hurt. Does anyone know or anyone even care?

R. Graham January 20, 2011 - 5:53 pm

Personally I don’t. Can’t speak for others. I don’t wish any ill will but if you don’t know when to say when then don’t hold others accountable.

BrooklynBus January 21, 2011 - 4:26 pm

It’s just a symptom of our society to make someone else pay for your mistake. A few years ago a lady fell while stepping up on the curb by the driveway in front of my house. My neighbor saw that she had her head in the air looking at the roofs instead of the ground in front of her. She tripped and broke her arm and was awarded an out of court settlement of $65,000. Her lawyer found a small crack a few feet away and claimed that’s where she fell. The insurance company wasn’t interested in my neighbor’s testimony because they felt a jury would have even awarded her more.

So the idea today is to collect as much as you can regardless of who is at fault and with all the greedy lawyers out there, it isn’t too difficult.

Joseph January 20, 2011 - 5:38 pm

Why do we have to pay for morons? There should be a anti moron bill put into affect that doesn’t allow people like this guy to sue…

Alon Levy January 21, 2011 - 2:13 am

Many factories other the the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory engaged in the same practices of locking the workers in, and didn’t have fires.

Justin Samuels January 21, 2011 - 3:36 am

There is no accident proof station that can be had, however, if these gap fillers can pin and hold people there, perhaps its better that the MTA find a better solution or even do a station redesign.

Not just the MTA, but anyone who owns property is responsible for the safety of people on their premises. Even if the person is drunk. And yes, the MTA should have had trained personnel on the site who could quickly release him from this. No one deserves to be pinned or injured.

Andrew January 21, 2011 - 6:41 am

Once again, is there any indication that Dion’s injuries were any worse due to the 30-minute wait?

A “station redesign”? Do you have any idea how expensive and disruptive it would be to move the station off the curve?

R. Graham January 21, 2011 - 9:19 am

Maybe no one deserves to be pinned but the fall alone will injure a person more times than not. Should the MTA be held accountable everytime a person falls on the tracks?

If I’m in the business of transit and you’re too drunk to watch what you’re doing I should not be held accountable for your actions.

In today’s world if I get in a car accident that’s not my fault, the other driver’s insurance company will pay for the damages. If I’m drunk and it’s still the other driver’s fault, the police will deem me too intoxicated to drive and charge me with a DUI. Other driver’s insurance company will NOT pay for my damages.

Why should the MTA be responsible for you when you can’t watch where you’re going because you’re impared?

Justin Samuels January 21, 2011 - 3:37 am

Lawyers have explained to me about how lawsuits generally work. Was the law broken, and where their damages to person or property. In both cases, the answer is yes in this incident.

R. Graham January 21, 2011 - 9:09 am

So laws were broken? What laws? Not by the MTA, right? I don’t see how the MTA broke any laws here. Damage to person and/or property completely self inflicted.

Report: Dion drunk before Union Square accident :: Second Ave. Sagas March 15, 2011 - 11:31 am

[…] the gap-fillers and a 4 train for 30 minutes before rescue workers could free him. In January, he vowed to sue the MTA for $15 million. At the time, I noted how his sobriety would become a major issue in the […]


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