She says the agency failed to prevent and respond to the incident.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
A woman who was pushed onto the tracks at a busy subway station in Toronto in April “ought to have known” it was unsafe for her to travel on public travel “alone and unassisted,” says Toronto’s public transit agency.
The woman is suing the Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC) for negligence after she was pushed off the platform onto the tracks by an assailant, and says the agency failed to prevent and respond to the incident.
But in its statement of defence, the TTC alleges the victim is partly to blame for the assault she suffered.
“It’s an appalling defence to take,” Nadia Condotta, one of the lawyers representing the woman who was pushed, told VICE World News. “This kind of defence in an assault claim is like blaming the victim in a sexual assault case for being assaulted for wearing a short skirt.”
When asked for comment, the TTC told VICE World News it doesn’t comment on ongoing legal matters.
On April 17, Shamsa Al-Balushi was standing on a platform at Yonge-Bloor when another woman, now identified as 45-year-old Edith Frayne, shoved Al-Balushi off the platform onto the tracks. During the incident, caught on video, Al-Balushi is standing behind the thick yellow line separating the platform from the tracks when Frayne approaches her from behind and shoves her.
According to court documents, Al-Balushi fell several feet off the platform and onto the tracks, before she rolled over until she wasn’t on the tracks themselves. She screamed, as did onlookers, while they could hear the subway travelling in the distance, the documents say, and the train slowly pulled into the station and Al-Balushi was stuck beside the train as it rolled in. According to the documents, she had to wait 30 minutes before she received help.
Al-Balushi suffered multiple injuries from the incident, including a broken rib, neck and back pain, bruising and contusions throughout her body, and trauma, anxiety, and depression. She’s currently unable to work.
Frayne has since been charged with attempted murder. But Al-Balushi is also suing the TTC for $1 million because she says the agency didn’t do enough to prevent and respond to the incident.
Her statement of claim lists several alleged TTC failures, including the failure to implement adequate safety measures, respond to the emergency promptly, stop the subway train from driving onto the platform, and give emergency services access to the tracks to save her.
In its statement of defence, the TTC maintains that Al-Balushi is herself responsible, at least in part, in addition to the assailant.
According to the TTC’s statement, Al-Balushi “failed to take reasonable steps and precautions for her own safety and protection.” The statement says “she chose to stand close to the edge of the platform,” “failed to pay due care and attention to her surroundings,” and “was travelling alone and unassisted on public transit when she knew or ought to have known that it was unsafe for her to do so.”
Condotta disputed the claims.
“There is video evidence she wasn't standing that close to the tracks,” Condotta said, adding, “How can you claim to be doing everything you can safety-wise and then in the same breath say she wasn't taking proper precautions—and proper precautions would have been travelling with somebody?”
“If she was a child that'd be a more viable argument but she's not. She’s a grown woman,” Condotta said.
The TTC also says Al-Balushi knew or was familiar with Frayne, and as a result, should have known to remove herself from the situation. Al-Balushi’s team maintains she didn’t know Frayne.
In its statement of defence, the agency also denies allegations that it didn’t respond promptly, and instead says that it reacted in a “prompt and reasonable manner.” The TTC maintains that it signalled the incoming subway train, contacted emergency services, and cut traction power.
According to Condotta, people have either jumped or been pushed onto the tracks several times, a phenomenon that is “underreported” and “shouldn’t happen.”
“The TTC has some obligation to protect the people that use their services,” she said.
Court documents say she’s now unable to do household chores normally, and because she doesn’t have a car, is still reliant on public transportation.
“She has to continue taking the TTC because she doesn't have a car, and now, she's scared on top of everything else,” Condotta said.
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