The New Jersey Supreme Court recently decided to uphold a ruling that will award a woman who was attacked on an NJ Transit bus $1.8 million.
The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld a decision to award a woman $1.8 million after she endured an attack in an NJ Transit bus. During the attack, she was hit in the head with a bottle, resulting in about two dozen stitches. The decision stemmed from a 4-3 vote that concluded the NJ Transit, “although a public carrier, had the same heightened duty of care to protect its customers as a private carrier under the state’s Tort Claims Act.” Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, NJ Transit had argued “it couldn’t be liable under the higher standard.”
In addition to the decision, a new jury will convene to determine whether or not damages “should also be found at the fault of the bottle thrower, who was never caught.” Additionally, jurors may also debate whether NJ Transit “had effective policies in place and if the driver abided by those policies.”
What happened, though? How did the woman, Anasia Maison, get hit in the head with a bottle? Well, according to reports and witness testimony, Maison was riding an NJ Transit bus to Newark on July 21, 2013. She was sitting toward the back of the bus, “a few rows in front of a group of teenagers.” Eventually, the teenagers “began harassing her, throwing objects, and flashed a knife at her.” At the time, Maison was a 22-year-old college student. According to court documents, she “tried to move seats but failed.”
When asked about the incident, Kelvin Coats, the bus driver, said he “knew there was a threat to Maison and acknowledged his job to get passengers from ‘Point A to B safely.’” He added, however, that “it’s not my job to get involved.”
In the end, the group of teenagers ended up throwing a bottle at Maison’s face “as they got off the bus, and she called 911 using another passenger’s cell phone.” From there, she was “transported to a local hospital, where she was treated for the serious and permanent injury to her forehead that resulted in 22 stitches,” according to court documents.
Coat’s further testified that he followed “NJ Transit’s policies and called the control center.” While the control center didn’t respond right away, it did return his call about 15 minutes later and “contacted authorities.” From there, he “continued to monitor the situation on the bus,” though he never stopped the bus and never told the men to stop harassing Maison. Additionally, he didn’t call the control center “until after the woman was hit with the bottle.”
As a result of the incident, Maison filed a complaint in 2014 alleging Coats and NJ Transit “breached their common-carrier duty to protect her from co-passengers, and suffered severe injuries as a result of the negligence.” The complaint led to a two-day trial, where a jury determined the “Tort Claims Act did not shield NJ Transit from liability, making them 100% responsible.” In the end, Maison was awarded $1.8 million.
Soon after, NJ Transit appealed the ruling for a number of reasons, including “that the bottle thrower should have been listed as a defendant.” The Supreme Court sided with the jury, though.
When commenting on the matter, K. Raja Battacharya, Maison’s lawyer said:
“Through this decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court protected the lives of all riders of NJ Transit buses and trains…We hope that NJ Transit will follow the direction of the Court and re-examine its policies and procedures concerning passenger safety. This case is a significant victory for those of us who work to assure public safety.”