MTA says injury lawsuits are draining its budget

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The Metropolitan Transit Authority is again appealing to the state Legislature for help — this time because injury lawsuits are costing millions yearly.

The MTA says it has been forced to pay out almost $1 billion in the past 20 years to people who sued the transit agency.

For instance, it cost the MTA $2.3 million when a man who could not remember how he ended up on subway tracks at the Union Square station. He was struck by a subway train and lost a leg. Authorities said he had a blood alcohol reading of 0.18.

In another case, the MTA was ordered to pay $1.4 million to a Queens teenager whose leg was severed by a subway train. The youth had jumped onto the rails in what he said was the belief the No. 7 line was not in service.

The MTA has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get the state Assembly and state Senate to change the law to limit the agency’s liability in those cases where the MTA contends it should not be held accountable.

The MTA’s legal department says some 2,750 legal claims are filed each year against the transit agency and nearly 8,000 of such lawsuits are awaiting trial or out−of−court settlement.

The MTA last year paid out $571.6 million on 1,187 personal injury claims last year.

The steady multimillion cash outflow comes at a time of financial distress at the MTA, which is the nation’s fifth largest debtor.

The state Legislature earlier this month approved a revenue stream plan to pull back the MTA from a financial debacle in which the agency would have raised fares up to 30 percent and carried out massive service cuts.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at or phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 136.

Updated 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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