Metro Transit Debating Bus Riders' Injury Rights

Updated: 03/25/2013 3:59 PM KSTP.com By: Maricella Miranda

The Metropolitan Council is asking a court to rule that the agency isn't responsible for paying medical costs for a man allegedly injured while riding a public bus.

Gregg Powell, of Minneapolis, said he was injured on a Metro Transit bus on Sept. 14, 2012, according to a complaint filed by the Met Council this month in Hennepin County District Court. The Met Council operates the Metro Transit bus system.

Powell didn't own a vehicle at the time of the alleged injury, the complaint said. He also didn't have personal injury protection, also known as no-fault insurance. In Powell's no-fault arbitration claim, he alleges that the Met Council should pay for his medical costs.

A Met Council official did not respond to a request for comment. Bruce Howard, director of customer services and marketing at Metro Transit, said Sunday that the agency has yet to review the lawsuit. He declined to comment further until reviewing the case.

The Met Council is arguing that it shouldn't have to provide no-fault benefits, according to state law. The complaint can be found here.

Attorney Harold Hitchcock, who's law firm represents Powell, said other public vehicles, such as ambulances, police squads and school buses have been exempt from the state's no-fault act, which controls the rights and benefits of people injured in motor vehicle accidents, calling for up to a minimum of $20,000 in benefits.

But Hitchcock said public buses - and other public transportation - shouldn't be exempt from that law. ”Regrettably, there’s too many accidents regarding buses in this town,” he said.

Hitchcock's Minneapolis firm, Woods and Thompson, represents other passengers who have been injured on Metro Transit buses. If the Met Council wins this case, the court ruling would exempt them from the no-fault act, Hitchcock said.

Each day, more than 225,000 riders rely on public transportation, according to a statement released from the law firm. Those passengers place themselves at "serious risk." If they're injured while riding, "there will be no one to help pay for the necessary medical treatment."

Many times, Metro Transit riders - like Powell - have no automobile insurance to cover accident injuries, according to the firm.