Court upholds woman’s $1.8M award in NJ Transit bus attack

U.S. Law Review

In a closely divided ruling, New Jersey’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a $1.8 million jury award for a woman who was struck on the head with a bottle while riding a New Jersey Transit bus.

The 4-3 decision affirmed that NJ Transit, a public carrier, has the same heightened duty of care to protect customers as would a private carrier. NJ Transit had argued it wasn’t liable under the higher standard.

Anasia Maison needed 22 stitches in her forehead after the 2013 attack in Newark, which occurred after a group of young men began harassing her.

A new jury will determine whether any of the damages should be shared by the bottle-thrower, who was never caught. Under new instructions included in Wednesday’s ruling, jurors can consider whether NJ Transit had effective polices in place and whether the driver followed those policies.

The dissenting justices disagreed with the majority’s assessment of the level of care required of New Jersey Transit, and with the scope of the new jury instruction that “presses the jury to allocate most ? if not all ? of the fault in this case to NJ Transit,” according to Justice Anne Patterson.

According to court documents, the driver didn’t stop the bus or ask the men harassing Maison to get off after she switched seats. After Maison was hit with a liquor bottle, he contacted NJ Transit’s control center, which notified police and emergency medical services.

The ruling “is a significant victory for those of us who work to assure public safety,” Maison’s attorney, K. Raja Bhattacharya, said in an email. “We hope that NJ Transit will follow the direction of the court and re-examine its policies and procedures concerning passenger safety.”

New Jersey Transit declined to comment Wednesday, citing the pending litigation.

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