NYC Subways and Air Conditioning

Every New Yorker who uses the subway on a regular basis has had the unpleasant experience of riding a train on hot day with no air conditioning. In Mahautiere v. NYC Transit Authority, a case of first impression in the Supreme Court, Queens County, the plaintiff fainted in a subway cart and fractured her ankle. The plaintiff commenced a lawsuit against the NYC Transit authority, alleging that the Transit Authority was negligent in failing to “provide a reasonably expected level of air conditioning” while the train was stopped between two stations. The Transit Authority moved for summary judgment, arguing that they did not owe the plaintiff a duty to provide air conditioning, yet did so and it was working properly. The court granted the Transit Authority’s motion, holding that even if the agency owed the plaintiff a duty to provide a “reasonably expected level of air conditioning” and breached it, plaintiff did not provide sufficient evidence to support her contention that insufficient air conditioning caused her to fall and fracture her ankle.

This case was an opportunity for the court to address two issues that affect millions of New Yorkers on a daily basis. First, does the Transit Authority have a duty to provide a “reasonably expected level of air conditioning” in the subway? Second, what is a “reasonably expected level of air conditioning?” It will be very interesting to see what the Second Department does when this case comes up on appeal.

Special thanks to Ed Lomena for his contributions to this post.  For more information, please contact Bob Cosgrove at rcosgrove@wcmlaw.com.