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Commuter lawsuit against LIRR gains traction

LIRR commuters Meredith Jacobs of Wantagh and Fred Lee of Uniondale sued the railroad "on behalf of the passengers of the LIRR who suffered during the so-called 'summer of hell.' "

Commuters walk by a LIRR train board at

Commuters walk by a LIRR train board at Penn Station in Manhattan on June 30, 2017. Photo Credit: AP/Julio Cortez

A judge has cleared a path for a lawsuit filed by a pair of commuters accusing the Long Island Rail Road of unsafe conditions for passengers in the weeks leading up to and during last year’s “summer of hell.”

Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Antonio Brandveen earlier this month ruled against the LIRR in its motion to dismiss the suit, filed by LIRR commuters Meredith Jacobs of Wantagh and Fred Lee of Uniondale “on behalf of the passengers of the LIRR who suffered during the so-called ‘summer of hell,ʼ ˮ according to the court ruling.

The LIRR argued that the suit should be tossed because the plaintiffs did not file a notice of claim with the court before filing the suit, as is typically required. But Brandveen ruled that the suit was exempt from the requirement because it seeks to “vindicate a public interest — that the defendants maintain safe and adequate facilities.”

The judge scheduled a court conference for the case on Aug. 20.

In a statement, LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said railroad officials “respectfully disagree with the court’s conclusions, and we intend to appeal.”

Manhattan attorney Paul Liggieri, who represents Jacobs and Lee, called the ruling “a huge win for the passengers on the Long Island Rail Road.”

“What it does is it now forces the Long Island Rail Road to answer the complaint, and it gives us an opportunity to proceed with the discovery process ... so we can find out exactly what the Long Island Rail Road is doing wrong,” said Liggieri, who also is an LIRR commuter. “The whole reason we brought the suit is because we want safe conditions and for the trains to run on time. And that wasn’t done.”

Jacobs and Lee filed the suit last June after a series of major service disruptions that they said resulted in dangerous conditions for riders, including three train derailments in about four months in Penn Station, which is owned and maintained by Amtrak. 

Major rush-hour delays and cancellations became routine and resulted in dangerous overcrowding on trains and at stations. Liggieri said photos filed with the suit showed riders “huddled in masses, appearing as though they were about to fall off” a station platform, and without any police or security in sight. 

The suit accused the LIRR of failing “to provide passengers with any semblance of comfort or safety.”

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