BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Recounting nearly a dozen cases of tragedy on New York City’s subway tracks, one woman who had a close call brought a federal class action Wednesday demanding safety reforms.
Lead plaintiff Mary West suffered only superficial injuries when her leg got caught last year between a uptown 1 train and the platform at the West 23rd Street station, but her 36-page complaint is brimming with disturbing photographs of other commuters who did not fare as well.
One shows the harrowing image of an oncoming train barreling toward Ki Suk Han as the 58-year-old tried to climb off the tracks onto which he was pushed by a homeless person.
Han’s death “sparked public debate about subway safety, although this coverage did not spur Defendants to undertake the necessary safety measures,” the complaint states, filed in Brooklyn by the Lee Litigation Group.
Alleging three counts of negligence, strict products liability and breach of warranty, lead plaintiff West says guardrails are the only solution.
There is even evidence that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the New York City Transit Authority have discussed handrails and gates internally, according to the complaint, but still little has been done beyond awareness campaigns.
“They also have the financial means to construct them but simply choose not to,” the complaint continues.
Though the agencies declined to comment on pending litigation, they emphasized in a statement that safety is their “No. 1 priority.” A line item in the MTA’s 2018 budget projects a cost of $31.4 million to install a pilot platform screen door at a subway station in the East Village. The projected completion date is March 2020.
In her complaint meanwhile, West notes that the city turned down an offer from a company called Crown Infrastructure to put up platform doors for free if it could keep all the advertising revenue from whatever appeared on the doors.
“Defendant’s public service announcements are no substitute for actual safety features,” said the complaint. “Defendant’s messages do not prevent injuries and death, yet defendant simply repeats its messaging with updated injury and death totals.”
While New York City’s subway system dates back to 1904, versions of the safety barriers described in the complaint, known as Platform Screen Doors (PSD), exist in subway stations in many Asian and European cities including Tokyo, Beijing, Copenhagen, Paris, and Chennai, India.
Lead plaintiff West notes that her injury occurred at the station right beside her apartment on West 23rd Street.
While boarding a train in May 2017 on her way to a writing group meeting, West accidentally stepped into the gap between the train and the platform. Though she was helped to safety by other passengers, photographs included in the complaint show that West suffered bruising, cuts and swelling on the leg.
Implying that even the subway safety matters for even the most seasoned riders, the complaint notes that West, who turns 66 this year, has been using the subway for “nearly her entire life.”
“A PSD system would be a much-needed addition to the subway platform safety, at the West 23rd Street station [where her accident occurred] and all the other 471 MTA stations,” the complaint states.
West’s attorney C.K. Lee has not returned a phone call seeking comment.