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New York County, NY

In this transit authority negligence action alleging negligent operation of a subway vehicle, the plaintiff asserted that the defendant closed a subway car door on his leg, causing him to fall and sustain injury. The defendant denied any deviation from proper operation of the train and challenged the plaintiff’s version of the events leading to his injury.

On the day in question, the plaintiff, a dancer and stage hand for the Broadway show Blue Man Group, was travelling to his home to get his costume for an evening performance. The plaintiff’s stop was the Whitehall station where he would then take the ferry to his home on Staten Island. The plaintiff contended that he was following three other passengers exiting from the subway at Whitehall station when his trailing right leg was caught in the doors of the subway car. The plaintiff maintained that his leg was trapped by the doors and he fell to the platform where he rotated his leg in an attempt to get it free from the doors.

The plaintiff argued that the defendant was negligent in failing to provide warning of the closing doors and in closing the door improperly while he was still exiting. The plaintiff claimed that the only witnesses were the passengers remaining in the subway car which then pulled away from the station. As a result of the incident, the plaintiff sustained a spiral fracture of both the tibia and fibula requiring open reduction and internal fixation with a metal rod.

The plaintiff was out of work for six months due to his injuries. The plaintiff also asserted that his injury curtailed his ability to lift or play with his daughter, as well as other limitations to his life activities. The plaintiff claimed permanent injury. At trial, the plaintiff called an orthopedist who testified as to the plaintiff’s injuries, treatment, and permanency.

The defendant challenged the plaintiff’s credibility with regard to the manner in which the incident happened. The defendant argued that the plaintiff, who was between two performances that day, and was attempting to get home to have dinner with his family before returning to the city for an evening performance, had probably fallen asleep on the train. The defendant pointed out that, had the plaintiff missed his stop, he would miss the ferry and would not make it home and back in time for his performance and thus was likely running to exit the train. The defendant pointed to the fact that, if leaving the train walking behind other passengers, there would have been no “trailing leg” as the plaintiff claimed.

The defendant asserted that if the doors were closing on the plaintiff as he exited walking at a normal pace, they would have closed on his shoulders, not his leg. The defendant argued, therefore, that the plaintiff must have been running from the train in order to have a leg trailing behind. The defendant put forth that the plaintiff caused the incident by leaving the train late, but further contended that the doors still did not cause the plaintiff’s injuries because the doors are designed so that they cannot close fully if something (such as a leg) is caught between the doors.

The defendant opined that the plaintiff must have tripped as he ran from the train and fell on the platform outside the doors of the subway car. The defendant deposed the conductor of the train who testified that he did not see anyone fall between the subway car and the platform. The defendant’s witness conductor also stated that no passenger could have fallen, otherwise the train would have been shut down and help called for the passenger. In addition, the defendant pointed to the plaintiff’s hospital records which indicated that the plaintiff reported at the emergency room that he had tripped and fallen while exiting the train. The plaintiff made no mention of the doors closing on his leg.The jury found no negligence by the defendant.

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