Seong Sil Kim v. New York City Transit Authority

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Seong Sil Kim v. NYCTA is a lawsuit in which a woman who laid down on subway tracks in an attempt to kill herself was first awarded over US$14,000,000 when the train hit her. The New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) appealed and the New York Supreme Court ordered a new trial in 2006.

On May 3, 2000, Seong Sil Kim lay down on the subway tracks just north of 34th street on the west side of Manhattan. Soon, she was hit by an E train and was nearly killed. She suffered traumatic amputation of the right hand except for the thumb; multiple skull and facial bone fractures; fractures to the right radius; fractured left toes; and lacerations of the face, abdomen, and leg, resulting in permanent scarring. Kim then sued the New York City Transit Authority for damages.

In the subsequent trial, it was revealed that somebody called '9-1-1' about six minutes before the accident, saying that he had seen a person lying on the tracks. They notified the train operators, and the driver of the E train was moving between 10 to 15 miles per hour (16 to 24 km/h) when he hit her. That is an appropriate speed under alert for a New York City Subway train. However, Kim's lawyers presented an expert witness who calculated that the operator should have been able to stop his train in time had he been going 10 mph or less.

Through a translator, Kim claimed to have had no idea how she ended up on tracks. However, she was 30 to 100 feet (9.1 to 30.5 m) north of the platform, so she could not have fallen there. She lay on the tracks for almost half an hour before she got hit. Kim had given birth two months before the event, and the city submitted evidence that she was suffering from postpartum depression.

Kim won her suit, and the jury awarded her over $14,000,000. However, the judge reduced the amount because he calculated that Kim was 30% responsible for her own injury, leaving her with $9,900,000.

Her lawyer, David Dean, of the law firm of Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo, said, "How she got there was less important than the obligations of the operator. You still have an obligation to operate a train safely, and this guy just didn't."[1]


  • "Win Big! Lie in Front Of a Train," Clyde Haberman, New York Times, June 25, 2002, Section B; Column 1; Metropolitan Desk; Pg. 1
  • New York Law Journal, June 10, 2002
  • NY Supreme Court ruling
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