Lawsuit Settlement of Painful Tourist Bus Ride Should Comfort Visitors

Agnes Matyekne will never forget her first and last ride on Philadelphia’s PHLASH ‘historic’ tourist shuttle bus on September 5, 2011. As a result of the driver’s admitted careless conduct, she was thrown up and down onto the vehicle’s hard wooden seat with such force that she suffered multiple injuries, requiring back surgery and lengthy rehabilitation. While the 62-year-old Hungarian immigrant just settled her negligence complaint (Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, March 2012-0945) against trolley owner-operator 76 Carriage Company, Inc., she and her attorneys are hopeful that the resolution will mean a long overdue, safer and more comfortable ride for all PHLASH riders.

Robert Braker, Esq., of Saltz, Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, P.C., following settlement of the lawsuit last week said that it appeared that the litigation was the catalyst for the private transit operator to take action to protect the safety and welfare of its passengers, including out-of-town tourists.

“It is a shame that it took this lawsuit to finally compel the defendant to install seat cushions to contribute to injury prevention on their vehicles. I am very pleased though that we were able to obtain just compensation for Mrs. Matyekne’s injuries, but it is also very satisfying to know that by fighting for Mrs. Matyekne, 76 Carriage Company has made everyone’s future rides on these vehicles safer,” said Mr. Braker.

The defendant agreed to settle the case for $450,000 just before closing arguments as the new PHLASH season is about to start. At trial, the trolley driver testified that he knew the intersection of 9th and Market Sts., where the incident occurred, was uneven and dangerous. He admitted for the first time from the witness stand that he failed to slow down or avoid the depression in the road causing Mrs. Matyekne to be ejected from her seat. Moreover, in a hushed courtroom moment evocative of a television drama, the trolley driver under intense cross-examination by Mr. Braker expressed remorse and apologized to Mrs. Matyekne. Settlement was reached shortly thereafter.

Mr. Braker, whose co-counsel in the case was Tracy Schwartz, Esq., said the message should be clear to all visitor-transportation operators that they must dedicate themselves to the highest standards of passenger safety.

“There can be no shortcuts – for budget or operational reasons – when it comes to rider safety and security,” he stated. “Mrs. Matyekne’s life will never be the same as a result of what should have been an enjoyable tourist bus ride through Philadelphia’s historic district. The incident was totally foreseeable and preventable.”

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