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MTA to Fight Damage Award

Appeal: The transit agency has been ordered to pay $1.4 million to injured woman, 97.


The county transit agency will appeal a $1.4-million damage award handed out to a 97-year-old Los Angeles woman who suffered serious injuries when she fell on a downtown subway platform, an official said.

Last month, Judge Soussan G. Bruguera ruled against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and in favor of Yvonne Wilson, a former accountant who lives by herself in a one-bedroom apartment on Bunker Hill.

In August 2000, while trying to get aboard a Red Line subway car, Wilson was hit by a train door as it closed and she fell backward onto the platform.

Wilson said the door's warning signal had not been turned on by an MTA operator. She suffered serious injuries to her back and head. Doctors eventually diagnosed her with an arthritis-like condition that they said had been caused by the fall.

Bruguera found the MTA negligent and ordered restitution for pain and suffering.

"I've lived independently all my life, so this has been an ordeal," Wilson, a widow with no family, said in a recent interview. "The MTA--they've dragged this thing out as long as they can. They just think, 'She's an old lady, she'll be gone soon enough.' But I don't plan on going anywhere."

The MTA legal chief, Steve Carnevale, said Wilson's age had played no part in the agency's legal strategy. "It's an outrageous award," said Carnevale, who said he did not believe the agency had been negligent. "I have no idea where the judge was coming from. We are definitely going to appeal."

The deal is a particularly tough blow for the MTA since, early on in the litigation, the woman's lawyers offered to settle the case for about $40,000. The agency turned down the offer, gambling it could win in court. The courtroom loss brings to $10.2 million the amount awarded this year to plaintiffs who have sued the MTA over injury and negligence claims, an agency spokesman said.

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