Home Asides Report: Dion drunk before Union Square accident

Report: Dion drunk before Union Square accident

by Benjamin Kabak

Over the past few months, I’ve been following the tale of Michael Dion somewhat closely. In mid-December, Dion fell off the IRT platform at Union Square and found himself pinned between 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 case, and indeed it has.

As both The Post and Daily News note today, the initial police report and subsequent MTA assessment allege that Dion was visibly intoxicated. “Witnesses reported seeing him staggering about the platform while holding a can of Budweiser,” the report says. It also notes that the train operator “observed a Budweiser can beside Mr. Dion, and in his opinion, Mr. Dion appeared to be inebriated.”

Dion’s lawyer, of course, denies this charge and questioned again why the gap fillers have remained as unsafe as they were when first built over 100 years ago. The beer can, the lawyer claims, was placed near Dion by another passenger. “He was not slugging beer on the platform,” Jay Dankner, the lawyer, said. “He refutes anybody saying he was carrying an open can of beer in a bag or not on the platform.” Clearly, Dion’s sobriety or lack thereof will be a major issue of fact for the jury if and when this case reaches trial. A lot of money in damages could hinge on it.

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R. Graham March 15, 2011 - 11:44 am

To quote the lawyer, “It’s crazy, this thing was built in 1904 and the TA hasn’t seen fit to make it safer.”

Even those more oblivious rider knows those gap fillers can’t be that old and would even question if there was such a thing in 1904.

Anything for a buck thou right?

Scott E March 15, 2011 - 12:12 pm

Or, even if it WERE built in 1904, wouldn’t the 100+ years of safe operation hint that maybe it was the fault of his client?

Edward March 15, 2011 - 1:29 pm

By the lawyer’s logic, one could say the whole sysem is unsafe since parts of it date to 1904 (some elevated stations even earlier than that). Heck, the Staten Island Railway goes back to the 1860s, so it must be REALLY unsafe.

From the (limited) internet research I’ve done, it looks like the gap fillers do indeed date from the station’s opening in 1904. That, however, does not make them unsafe for those riders who are not drunk out of their minds and/or have a brain in their head.

R. Graham March 15, 2011 - 6:10 pm

Even still he implies as if these are the same exact fillers. They are not. The trains and their lengths have changed over the years. Who knows how many times the fillers and the system that run them have been changed. I doubt they worked automatically back in 1904.

skunky March 15, 2011 - 11:48 am

why should his sobriety matter? the guy who was so drunk he fell on the tracks and got his legs cut off got a huge verdict in his favor.

apparently the gubmint is supposed to protect even the drunk from themselves. long live the nanny state!

Adam Ernst March 15, 2011 - 11:53 am

There are so many security cameras, the MTA has to have a way to refute this.

Joe Steindam March 15, 2011 - 12:40 pm

Do the MTA’s camera’s actually record events? I thought that most of the platform cameras are stationed so the train operators can control the doors and see if there’s any problems while they enter and leave the station. I wouldn’t be surprised if these camera’s don’t actually store data, doing so might be too costly, considering these instances are surprisingly rare considering the annual ridership at Union Square.

fasteee March 15, 2011 - 1:04 pm

It takes the MTA over two weeks to clean shit off the floor at Herald Square (and only after a news crew shamed them into doing so). Does anyone really think that cameras in stations do anything beside (maybe) go to a 6″ B&W monitor somewhere where (maybe) some goofball is watching it?

Anyone who thinks the MTA records and stores data from hundreds of CCTV cams is giving the agency a lot more credit than it ever deserves.

R. Graham March 15, 2011 - 1:28 pm

There are cameras in the turnstile and mezz areas that would be able to see if he indeed headed off to the platform carrying an open container.

Edward March 15, 2011 - 1:30 pm

True, but only if they actually recorded any action. I wouldn’t be any money on that.

R. Graham March 15, 2011 - 12:40 pm

Oh that brown paper bag my client is drinking from in the video? Oh that’s not a beer, its…uh uh umm it’s a red bull super sized!

AK March 15, 2011 - 1:36 pm

One addition: a major dispute in this case is whether the MTA’s response was adequate, regardless of who caused him to fall on the tracks. This parsing of damages is a basic element of negligence law. For instance, it may be a jaywalker’s “fault” that he placed himself in traffic when he shouldn’t have, but that doesn’t mean a driver can speed through the pedestrian without liability. “But for” causation isn’t that simple. Similarly, the MTA in this case, the plaintiff claims, should have had someone around who knew how to mechanically release the gap fillers. Instead, the guy spent 20-30 minutes pinned, exascerbating his injuries. Does that mean he isn’t partially at fault? No. But it does mean that the MTA was potentially negligent and figuring out the (negative) value of the MTA’s negligence is precisely what juries/tort courts are for.

John March 15, 2011 - 4:21 pm

What kind of injuries could he possible have that cost him $15 million??

AK March 16, 2011 - 9:47 am

The compensatory damages are not alleged to be $15 million. Pain/suffering/emotional harm does count for something (though plaintiffs lawyers would probably admit that they shoot for the moon on those damages because they permit subjective analysis).

Al D March 15, 2011 - 2:21 pm

Dion’s attorney’s quoted words can and should be used against him by providing the number of sober people caught in the gap filler in the past 100 years.

Lawrence Velázquez March 15, 2011 - 3:18 pm

The beer can, the lawyer claims, was placed near Dion by another passenger.

Sounds like the beginnings of a conspiracy theory.

R. Graham March 15, 2011 - 6:13 pm

Haven’t we been down this road before OJ?

Paulie3jobs March 15, 2011 - 6:31 pm

Maybe the MTA should encourage cellphone videos of people who are perceived to be intoxicated. A percentage of money saved from the litigation expenses could be your reward.

Anon March 15, 2011 - 6:33 pm Reply
Victoria March 15, 2011 - 11:59 pm

The doors on the subway cars don’t open until those gap-fillers finish extending completely, so basically he tried to board the train before the doors had opened, which is probably something only a drunk person would do.

Alon Levy March 16, 2011 - 8:46 pm

Correct MTA response: counter-sue Dion for delaying commuters by 30 minutes.

LindyK May 17, 2011 - 4:49 pm

Sobriety has nothing to do with anything. The gap is dangerous. End of story. Totally pointless article.


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