Sunday, August 20, 2006

False Imprisonment by the LIRR

Dear Management:

I'm sure my complaint is but one of many lodged by fellow passengers stuck in August 14th's epic delay on the Babylon branch. I understand that the root cause of this catastrophe was, for once, beyond the control of the railroad.

However, there is one issue which was fully within the railroad's purview. After sitting on the 6:27 train to Babylon for over an hour just west of Valley Stream, we were told that the train would platform at Valley Stream and then head west back to Jamaica, where we would board a diesel train to Babylon. The connecting train at Babylon would be held for passengers heading to further points east.

I asked the conductor if we could leave the train at Valley Stream. He denied my request. The train pulled up to the platform and remained there for over five minutes with the doors closed. In fact, LIRR personnel keyed open a door on my car and boarded my train. As far as I can tell, I have a claim for false imprisonment.

In order to successfully prove a claim for false imprisonment, claimant must establish that: (1) the defendant intended to confine him; (2) he was conscious of the confinement; (3) he did not consent to the confinement; and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged. Broughton v State of New York, 37 NY2d 451, 457-458, cert den sub nom. Schanbarger v Kellogg, 423 US 929). As in THOMPSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-019-010, Claim No. 103031, there is most likely no genuine dispute regarding my ability to establish the first three factors and because I was confined without a warrant, I can establish a prima facie case of false imprisonment. (Broughton, 37 NY2d at 458). In other words, when confined against one's will, as here, there is a presumption that such confinement was unlawful, thereby shifting the burden to the LIRR to establish a privilege for the confinement by establishing reasonable cause for said confinement. (Broughton, 37 NY2d at 458; Stratton v City of Albany, 204 AD2d 924). Whether there was reasonable cause to confine me will, of course, depend upon the particular facts and circumstances preceding my confinement.

But that would be difficult for the MTA to prove, given the fact that the train remained at the platform for several minutes, and LIRR personnel boarded the train during that time period, but passengers were unlawfully prohibited from leaving the train, against their will.

You have been put on notice.