Though it has taken almost six years to get there, the lawsuit over the 2006 reciprocating saw attack in the subway is finally getting into a courtroom, absent a last minute settlement, reports the New York Post.
Michael Steinberg was on his way to work for an overnight shift at the post office on July 6, 2006. Suddenly, he was attacked by a man wielding two power saws. The man held him down while cutting into his flesh. Doctors said that if the cuts had gone one millimeter deeper, he would have been dead.
According to Steinberg, the saws were left out in the open by contractors working on an upgrade to the MTA sound system. The mentally-ill attacker stole the saws from the construction crew and used them to torture and rob Steinberg. While he was being attacked, the contractors and MTA staff allegedly stood by and did nothing.
The suit initially included the MTA, as well as the contractors. The MTA was dismissed, however, due to the concept of governmental immunity. The contractors, Five Star Electric Corp., were not so lucky.
Governmental immunity, or sovereign immunity, is a shield that protects the government, and its subdivisions, from being sued, absent their permission. It dates back to the English principle that the monarch can do no wrong.
Under the doctrine, federal and state agencies cannot be sued, even if the are at fault for an injury. There are exceptions, however, for suits against the federal government for a few torts, such as battery, false imprisonment, and slander and against an individual state for civil rights violations.
The doctrine let MTA off the hook, but not Five Star. Because they were contractors, and not a government agency, immunity did not apply. As the only remaining party to the suit, they will have to foot the bill if they are found at fault.
Five Star tried to argue that the incident was unforeseeable, but there was some testimony that the crazed attacker was hovering around the saws earlier, talking and yelling, and yet the saws were still accessible.
The trial is set to begin this week.
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