Two female NYPD officers were awarded $5.8 million in a suit against the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) after they were beaten in the Times Square subway station while a booth attendant looked on without lifting a finger.
In court the MTA claimed they are only responsible for alerting police when passengers are being attacked, but a panel of appellate judges ruled Tuesday that was too narrow a view of the law. Furthermore, the logic flies in the face of the MTA campaign “If you see something, say something.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” said attorney Brian O’Connor, who represented both officers.
On a plainclothes patrol in June 2002, Police Sgt. Jannet and Camille San Fillippo spotted a man in drag performing a sexual act on another man on the street. They chased the perpetrator into the subway where a struggle ensued. Although they asked MTA clerk Sean Corbin to call for backup, he did nothing. He watched the “fierce and protracted struggle” while locked inside his booth and made no “attempts to summon for help,” the ruling said.
“All he had to do was press a button,” O’Connor said.
Velez, 35, who was a 14-year veteran on the force, had to quit her job in 2004 because of the career-ending injuries she sustained in the fight. The mother of two suffered multiple tendon tears in her biceps and rotator cuffs when the perpetrator threw her down the stairs during the struggle. She underwent two surgeries before she was fully mobile again.
“She loved being a police officer,” O’Connor said. “She comes from a family of cops. Both her brother and father were officers. It was a big deal to her.”
San Filippo, 47, had minor ankle and shoulder injuries from the fight. After 20 years on the job, she retired in 2003.
The two officers originally sued in 2004. Corbin testified at trial that he did nothing because he believed the cops had the upperhand. They originally won their case against the MTA in 2010, but the jury verdict was overturned by a Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lottie Wilkins, who said Corbin was only obligated to help passengers under attack, not police.
Appellate judges said Wilkins was viewing the decision too narrowly. “This was error,” they ruled.
Because of the extent of her injuries and loss of ability to work, Velez will get $5.6 million of the settlement.