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ARTICLE ID 169472

$________ GROSS - TRANSIT AUTHORITY LIABILITY - EMPLOYEE OF TRANSIT AUTHORITY MURDERED ON PREMISES BY ESTRANGED HUSBAND - FAILURE BY AUTHORITY TO FOLLOW OWN SECURITY RULES - WRONGFUL DEATH AND CONSCIOUS PAIN AND SUFFERING.

New York County, NY

On January 1, ________ 26-year-old Benita Maria Smith was working as a cleaner for the New York Transit Authority at the 184th Street and Fort Washington Avenue station in Manhattan. While she was in an employee’s-only locker room, she was shot and killed by her estranged husband, Charles Smith. She died approximately 20 minutes after being shot, still undiscovered lying on the floor of the locker room. Her estate commenced this action against the Transit Authority, seeking to recover for her wrongful death and her conscious pain and suffering during her final 20 minutes. Specifically, the estate alleged that the Transit Authority was liable for her wrongful death by failing to follow its own rules and general negligence standards in permitting an outsider access to its employee, thereby putting that employee in danger. Further, the estate alleged that the Transit Authority’s failure to install any type of emergency alert in the locker room prevented the decedent from getting potentially life-saving attention. The Transit Authority argued that Charles Smith, intent on harming his estranged wife, would have committed the murder regardless of whether the Transit Authority allowed access to her on its premises.

Ms. Smith’s body was discovered by a co-worker. She had been shot twice in the chest and once in the right leg. The couple had been married for seven years, but was estranged at the time of the killing. Ms. Smith was living with the couple’s four-year-old son and a ten-year-old son from a previous relationship. Mr. Smith had previously broken Ms. Smith’s jaw and she had obtained a protective order against him.

On January 1, ________, Mr. Smith had telephoned the Transit Authority and asked where Ms. Smith was working that day. She was a floater-cleaner so she was frequently assigned to different stations. The Transit Authority employee informed Mr. Smith of the station Ms. Smith was working. At approximately 8:00 p.m., Mr. Smith arrived at the station, described Ms. Smith and asked where she was. It is disputed whether he identified himself as Ms. Smith’s husband.

The token booth worker directed him to another employee who accompanied him in an elevator to a door that had no sign on it. This was the employee’s-only locker room. The Transit Authority employee left Mr. Smith outside that door. Mr. Smith went into the room and killed Ms. Smith. At approximately 9:00 p.m., a co- worker of Ms. Smith discovered her lifeless body.

That evening, Mr. Smith was arrested when he telephoned the Transit Authority, expressing concern for her whereabouts, and was advised to go the station. He confessed to the crime and was subsequently sentenced to twenty-plus years.

The estate alleged that the Transit Authority violated its own rules and general negligence standards by advising Mr. Smith of the whereabouts of Ms. Smith and by accompanying him to her, thereby facilitating the murder. In addition, the estate alleged that the Transit Authority failed to provide an emergency alert in the locker room which could have been used by Ms. Smith to get life-saving assistance. The security expert retained by the estate opined that the lack of an emergency alert was a contributing factor that prevented Ms. Smith from being kept alive.

The security expert retained by the Transit Authority opined that a person intent on doing harm to another cannot be prevented, regardless of the protection of a third-party. As to the lack of an emergency-alert device, the Transit Authority maintained that it could not run a telephone line into the room, but there was a public phone right outside the room in the public area. Beyond that, the Transit Authority just argued that it wasn’t necessary.

The estate initially demanded $________ and eventually reduced that to $________. During the closing at trial, the estate asked of the jury for an award of $________.

After a nine day trial and after deliberating for six hours, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded it $________ plus interest. The award included recovery for pecuniary loss and conscious pain and suffering. The gross recovery was $________.

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