Anasia Maison v. New Jersey Transit Corporation


Decided February 17, 2021

Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court reviewed whether public common carriers such as NJ Transit is subject to the heightened duty of care standard governing private common carriers for personal injury suits.

In Maison, Maison, a twenty-year-old college student, boarded an NJ Transit bus operated by defendant Kelvin Coats and took a seat towards the rear of the bus. Two rows behind her were four to five male teenagers.  As the bus pulled away, the teenagers verbally harassed her, and one threw an object striking her in the face. The harassment continued, with one of the teenagers brandishing a knife. Fearful, Maison unsuccessfully attempted to change her seat. As the teenagers left the bus, one threw a bottle hitting Maison in the face. Maison called out for help, and a passenger gave her a cell phone, which she used to call the police and an ambulance. Maison was transported to a hospital, where she was treated for a serious and permanent injury to her forehead.

Coats testified that he knew that there was a threat to Maison. He acknowledged that his job was to get his passengers “from point A to B safely” but also stated in his deposition testimony that “it’s not my job to get involved.” After Maison was struck, he followed NJ Transit’s procedure and pushed a button to call NJ Transit’s control center. Coats waited for about fifteen minutes before the control center returned his call. The control center then contacted the police and emergency medical services. Coats admitted that he monitored the situation in the rear of the bus and that he did not stop the bus, tell the young men to “knock it off,” call the police, or contact NJ Transit’s control center until after Maison was hit with the bottle. The police never apprehended the young men who assaulted Maison.

Maison filed a complaint alleging that NJ Transit and Coats breached their common-carrier duty to protect her from the wrongful acts of co-passengers and that, as a result of their negligence, she sustained severe and permanent injuries.

The trial court determined that, as a matter of law, the common-carrier standard of care applied to defendants; Tort Claims Act immunities did not shield defendants from liability; and comparative fault could not be allocated to the unidentified bottle thrower. The jury returned a liability verdict against defendants and awarded Maison $1,800,000.

The Appellate Division affirmed and the Supreme Court granted certification.  The Supreme Court of New Jersey agreed, NJ Transit drivers are held to the same negligence standard under the TCA as other common carriers – to exercise the utmost caution to protect their passengers as would a very careful and prudent person under similar circumstances.  None of the TCA immunities defendants asserted abrogated their common-carrier duty to protect Maison from the dangerous and threatening conduct of the teenage passengers.

This case is very important, as normally public entities and employees have more protections against personal injury lawsuits than private entities and individuals.  This case allows plaintiffs to proceed for personal injury against public common carriers such as NJ Transit trains and busses, just like private busses.

If you have been injured on an NJ Transit or other public bus or train, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Hark & Hark today.  For personal injury matters, you pay nothing upfront, and our fee is paid as a percentage of your recovery. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties.

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Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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