Home Asides Lawsuit of the Day: On the G train…

Lawsuit of the Day: On the G train…

by Benjamin Kabak

Today’s injured passenger lawsuit is brought to you by the letter G. Meet Jonathan Lynn. Last August, he attempted to board a G train at Classon Ave. only to find that the doors were shutting. He made that mad dash down the platform, stuck his arm into an open door and found himself being dragged by the train. After suffering a series of horrific injuries, including multiple arm fractures, he is suing the MTA and the train’s operators.

In the Daily News article, Lynn at first claims the train’s operator waved him along, but he later seems to contradict that statement. “I didn’t think it was real. [I thought] the door’s going to open, he’s going to stop, he’s going to hear me,” Lynn said. “I bounced off one of the pillars, hit my head and that’s the extent of my memory.”

If it sounds fishy to you, it certainly does to me. I’m guessing Lynn tried to board a train right as it was closing, the conductor failed to see him in time and the driver started the train. As a poll attached to The Daily News article shows, already people are overreacting to an injury that is likely partially the fault of the victim as well. People will rabble for more safety precautions; politicians will wring their hands; and the case will settle. The lesson here: Just wait for the next train. It’s never that far away.

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Mel B. May 31, 2011 - 12:41 pm

All the safety precautions in the world will not stop a determined idiot. This guy deserves nothing but contempt for what his idiocy – including this lawsuit – does to the rest of us.

Donald May 31, 2011 - 12:52 pm

Luckily the train had a condcutor and was not OPTO or else our plaintiff friend might not be around today. Are you listening OPTO chearleaders?

Benjamin Kabak May 31, 2011 - 12:55 pm

I was waiting for that. Considering how the plaintiff freed himself with no help from either the conductor or driver, what does OPTO have to do with this?

Donald May 31, 2011 - 12:57 pm

What if the next person to be dragged is not able to free themselves?

Matt May 31, 2011 - 1:13 pm

Then they’ll die? If we assume the same facts, then neither the conductor nor the driver will see him, and he’ll end up bloody on the tracks. OPTO has nothing to do with this.

Speaking of the conductor, doesn’t he have some responsibility for ensuring that the train doesn’t leave the station until the doors are closed? Perhaps OPTO could’ve helped here, as one hopes the machine wouldn’t have let the train leave with open doors.

Donald May 31, 2011 - 1:32 pm

The doors were open, but not open enough to prevent the indication lights from not going on. The condcutor cannot actually see all the doors. He knows based on the indication lights. If they are on, then that means all is good and the train can move. The train operator also sees the indication lights and that is when he knows when to start the train.

petey May 31, 2011 - 2:21 pm

what? shouldn’t the indicator light show whether a door is open even a smidge?

nycpat May 31, 2011 - 3:08 pm

You can get indication with a bag strap, shirtslevee and especially trenchcoats stuck in the doors. That’s why C/rs have to observe the platform for 70′ as the train moves.

Scott E May 31, 2011 - 3:21 pm

So the solution is what: platform edge doors? If you have two sets of doors 4-6 inches or so apart, presumably something so thin couldn’t get caught in both of them, and if it does, the PED would keep the guy right where he is on the platform.

nycpat May 31, 2011 - 3:37 pm

People will get stuck in platform doors or keep them open, delaying trains.
I guess an education campaign can’t hurt. Instead of “Improvments don’t just happen” or “Improving non-stop” how about “TRAINS ARE DANGEROUS, AVOID GRUESOME ACCIDENTS BY NEVER RUNNING FOR A TRAIN, NEVER HOLD TRAIN DOORS, THEY DON’T WORK LIKE ELEVATOR DOORS, STAND WELL BACK FROM MOVING TRAINS!”

Andrew June 1, 2011 - 10:43 pm

Nonsense. The conductor is required to observe the platform as the train is pulling out. Most stations have full visibility of the length of the platform from the conductor’s position (or the train operator’s position, in the case of OPTO), and those that don’t have monitors and cameras.

Your arguments are amusing. First you say that the conductor saved his life, even though the conductor did nothing at all and he saved his own life. Then you say that the conductor isn’t expected to do the one thing the train operator can’t: watch for drags as the train is pulling out. So what’s the point of having a conductor?

Eric May 31, 2011 - 1:17 pm

Since it was after midnight, the train probably did NOT have a conductor.

Andrew June 1, 2011 - 10:43 pm

The G has conductors on weeknights.

Eric June 3, 2011 - 12:56 pm

Odd. I’ve ridden the G after midnight on weekends and it didn’t have a conductor.

Andrew June 4, 2011 - 11:16 pm

I said weeknights.

All weekend long, from Friday night through Sunday night, the G is OPTO. From Monday morning through Friday evening, it has conductors.

Bolwerk May 31, 2011 - 1:44 pm

Wow, I think this is the first time I’ve seen an argument on this blog that tops the stupidity of “buses are cheaper than trains” cheerleading.

Yes, OPTO has risks. Yes, some people will be injured and die because of those risks. Do you propose that’s worse than an affordable, sustainable transportation system? More people will die without OPTO and other reforms, because we won’t be able to shift transportation usage away from highways (the biggest killer of all) and towards public transit.

nycpat May 31, 2011 - 3:17 pm

Just so we’re clear; “Yes, OPTO has risks. Yes, some people will be injured and die because of those risks.”
I thought transit workers had some immunity from lawsuits stemming from their duties. If not, this will be the TWUs dream come true. Finally a way to effect implementation of a systemwide rulebook slowdown.

Bolwerk May 31, 2011 - 4:12 pm

I’m not sure, so maybe I am blowing smoke out of my ass but…

I don’t think transit workers necessarily get in trouble unless they’re negligent. That doesn’t mean the MTA can’t be found legally at fault (partially or wholly) in a civil suit.

Donald May 31, 2011 - 4:15 pm

“More people will die without OPTO and other reforms, because we won’t be able to shift transportation usage away from highways (the biggest killer of all) and towards public transit.”

Having conductors on trains kills people? Wow, I did not know that. My father was a conductor for 30 years. I should ask him how many people died as a result of him being on the train.

Seriously though, OPTO and shifting people off of highways has nothing to do with each other.

Bolwerk May 31, 2011 - 4:47 pm

No, you’re missing or deliberately misconstruing the point. Conductors very well could save lives. However, they’re expensive. Bogging transit down with inexcusable expenses simply makes transit unaffordable. Improvements like OPTO* are critical to making transit affordable – if we can’t have affordable transit, we’ll never get people off highways.

Of course, I’m not going to say that OPTO isn’t safer. It very likely is safer, but I’ll concede it might not be. That doesn’t mean the technologies that replace it won’t fail. People will still die in tragic, unfortunate accidents.

* I don’t know exactly how much $ OPTO saves, but it probably cuts the labor cost of running a train by close to 50%.

Donald May 31, 2011 - 5:09 pm

OPTO is not a form of technology. It is having 1 person do the job of 2 people. Also, trains would have to spend more time in the station under OPTO, so trains will be more crowded and run less frequently. That will only result in more people ditching the subway for cars.

Alon Levy May 31, 2011 - 6:27 pm

Please stop. You have no idea how operations work in OPTO cities. Trains do not dwell longer, and one person does the job just fine. It’s New York that makes 2 people do the job of 1, not the reverse.

Bolwerk June 1, 2011 - 3:12 pm

Uh, sorry to be blunt, but that’s crap. I realize OPTO isn’t a particular technology, but it is technology that makes it possible to safely replace the conductor in the 21st century.

And, while I agree 100% with what Alon said, there is even a case to be made that sometimes a second person should be operating the doors. Trains can be long, and crowds can make visibility to the back bad from the cab even without curves.

Operative word: sometimes. We just don’t need them on every train at every time. That’s a needless concession to the union, not a safety improvement. Anyone who says we can’t employ OPTO isn’t being serious.

Alon Levy June 1, 2011 - 6:32 pm

Meh. Driverless trains operate safely, so clearly there’s a technological solution to the seeing-everything issue.

Or you can just note that the Moscow Metro operates safely with trains that are almost as long (160 vs. 180 meters) as and more crowded than in New York.

Bolwerk June 2, 2011 - 8:41 am

I agree, but people who argue that a second person makes sense in those limited situations aren’t being unreasonable. They’re being unreasonable if they think a conductor is needed on something like the M Train, which never gets especially crowded. I think they’re being overcautious, personally.

As I said before, I could see a second person making sense at Union Square…maybe on the platform.

Andrew June 1, 2011 - 10:47 pm

OPTO is having 1 person do the job of as many as 81 people (one person to operate the train and one person to open and close each door panel).

Why is it OK for one person to control 80 door panels but not for that same person to also operate the train? Perhaps each train should have 80 conductors.

(The answer, of course, is that the division of labor can be set up however it makes sense. In an overwhelming majority of transit properties around the world, the same person who moves the train also opens and closes the doors; there’s nothing unnatural, unusual, or unsafe about that division of labor.)

nycpat May 31, 2011 - 5:10 pm

Less than 50%. You have to factor in costs for increased pay for T/Os and the additional TSSs needed for troubleshooting*. Also the additional liability costs for injured passengers. Also the people who will avoid the subway at night when there are no C/rs, S/As.
*unruly passengers, sick passengers, assisting taking trains out of service en route, isolating cars with blood-vomit-feces-vandalism, responding to trains that are BIE, etc.

Donald May 31, 2011 - 5:16 pm

The savings from OPTO would be even less than that since you cannot have OPTO during the rush hours. The MTA has only proposed it for nights and weekends. Management and the union both agree that OPTO during ruh hour is not practical.

Donald May 31, 2011 - 5:19 pm


Plus OPTO would require substantial upfront costs, such as installing monitors by the operator’s window. I don’t think there is any money in the capital budget to make these changes.

nycpat May 31, 2011 - 5:41 pm

Oh yeah, additional TSSs will be needed to flag trains out of the station whenever a monitor goes out. Then when the workers (an additional expense in labor and materiel) show up to fix the monitor the trains can enter and leave the station at 10mph.

Bolwerk June 1, 2011 - 3:13 pm

There aren’t likely to be additional liability costs, and the best way to reduce liability costs is to change the law so the compensation for being needlessly stupid isn’t so ridiculous.

Alon Levy May 31, 2011 - 6:32 pm

Bolwerk, conductors do not save lives. Tokyo hasn’t had a spike in accidents since it went OPTO (which was surprisingly recent), Paris and London don’t have big accidents, the automated subways of the world are completely safe…

OPTO cuts the labor cost of running a train by somewhat less than 50%, since conductors get paid less than train drivers. I believe it’s 40%, but the data on wages comes from the Empire Center, which among its many sins is a nightmare to search in again and I don’t have time for it right now.

nycpat May 31, 2011 - 7:13 pm

Japan also recently suffered major disasters without looting. In New York there are widely divergent views about what proper public behaviour is. People eat, sleep, fight, go to the bathroom and fight on moving NYC Subway trains.
Replace New Yorkers with homogenous Japanese and there are a lot of things we could do better.
T/Os make $4 an hour more than C/rs. T/Os in OPTO service make $6 an hour more.

Alon Levy May 31, 2011 - 7:32 pm

Last time there was a blackout in New York, there was no looting either.

I brought up Japan only because it went OPTO recently, so you can see what happened to the accident rate. (It kept going down.) You can just as well see OPTO in action in chaotic Paris, where people jump turnstiles all the time and nobody does anything.

Donald May 31, 2011 - 8:11 pm
Alon Levy June 1, 2011 - 1:09 am

Amagasaki was caused by operator overspeeding, not anything that’s under the conductor’s purview (and if I’m not mistaken, regional lines in Japan do have conductors).

And even with Amagasaki, JR West ties the US for accident deaths per passenger-km, while the entire Japanese system beats the US by a factor of about 5.

Try again.

Donald May 31, 2011 - 8:13 pm

Also Japan is not really OPTO since they still have the pushers.

Alon Levy June 1, 2011 - 2:46 am

They have pushers only at select stations, to mitigate crowding levels not much less than twice those of the Lexington Line.

nycpat May 31, 2011 - 11:17 pm

Last time there was a blackout I didn’t have to evacuate my train single handed. My C/r and I did it!

Donald May 31, 2011 - 8:09 pm

“the automated subways of the world are completely safe…”

What about the automated train disaster on the DC Metro Red line in 2009?

Alon Levy June 1, 2011 - 2:53 am

First, the DC Metro is not driverless. If you want driverless, check out Copenhagen, Vancouver, Paris Line 14 (and soon 1), and Singapore’s Northeast and Circle Lines.

Second, the DC Metro is unusually unsafe for any subway. The libertarians use it as a standard example of bad union safety to try to counter leftists who point out the Chatsworth crash.

nycpat June 1, 2011 - 1:31 pm

The safety problems at DC Metro stem from a unionised workforce……….
Holding management acountable for failure and incompetence is leftish…….

Alon Levy June 1, 2011 - 1:39 pm

Hey, don’t blame me. I’d tell you WMATA has crappy management, which is reflected in the labor-management situation. The union there is not exceptionally militant.

But what is not relevant to WMATA’s safety problems is train staffing.

Bolwerk June 1, 2011 - 3:20 pm

Well, a conductor could easily stop a freak accident, but I don’t see why we should waste so much just to stop something that by nature almost never happens. (Unlike automobile deaths, which are a daily occurrence in our region.) Having working transit is more important than the infinitesimally small blip in risk, which is the most I would be willing to concede.

Like I said above, there are a few conditions in New York that can arguably warrant a second person (the curves/crowds at Union Square?). But if that’s so, it would make more sense to have one person on the platform rather than 1 additional on every 4/5/6 train.

Smarter trains and better safety technology could easily make up the difference.

ollie May 31, 2011 - 12:58 pm

this idiot better not get a penny, and in fact should be punished for reckless behavior

Alex C May 31, 2011 - 1:18 pm

He’ll get millions and the Minions of Dumb and the media will call for the MTA’s head. Then they’ll call for the MTA to install platform doors or barriers, completely ignoring that it would take millions (if not the billions range) of dollars to do.

Jean-Francois P. May 31, 2011 - 1:09 pm

This guy is an idiot but the train started with a door which was partially opened… so here is where this idiot will be able to get some money.

Jess May 31, 2011 - 1:15 pm

Ha! Obviously, you’ve never lived along the G train. The next train really IS pretty far away when you’re on the G. I used to live closest to the Bedford entrance at Bedford-Nostrand and did the G train jog many times to get to the train stopped at the other end of the platform. Often, the conductor gestured that they’d wait for me to get there. So I believe that part.

Eric May 31, 2011 - 1:22 pm

Thank you. All the normal rules of the subway go out the window when it comes to riding the G.

Jerrold May 31, 2011 - 1:26 pm

It’s the old story.
People associate those doors with elevator doors,
and they stick in an arm or a leg to make the doors bounce back open.
They do that instantly without thinking, because it’s an ingrained urban habit that comes from elevators.

nycpat May 31, 2011 - 3:04 pm

Absolutely. NYPD needs to give out tickets for door holders.

Stephen Smith May 31, 2011 - 2:42 pm

After suffering a series of horrific injuries…

Not sure a broken arm really counts as a “horrific” injury. I bet much more gruesome things have happened between then and now on NYC’s roads and highways, without anyone getting sued or even charged.

Phil May 31, 2011 - 2:45 pm

The sad part is that tax money that’s going towards funding the MTA will end up being spent in compensation for this guy because we all know he’ll win, as wrong as that may be.


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