Kimon Stathakos has filed a class action lawsuit against the...

Kimon Stathakos has filed a class action lawsuit against the Long Island Rail Road. Credit: John Paraskevas

A commuter whose train service was disrupted by snow and ice filed a lawsuit against the LIRR Wednesday, arguing that people who pay for a month's worth of train service should get what they paid for.

Kimon Stathakos, who commutes to Penn Station from Stony Brook on the Port Jefferson line, said in the lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Central Islip, that the Long Island Rail Road should reimburse monthly customers for days with little or no service. The suit seeks class-action status.

Stathakos commutes from Stony Brook to Penn Station weekdays to get to his job as a project manager. But on four days from late December to early February, Stathakos said, he could not use his $334 monthly LIRR ticket because severe weather resulted in no or limited service.

He said he asked the LIRR to reimburse him on a prorated basis for days train service was affected, but was rejected. Stathakos said such practices are common in other service industries.

LIRR spokesman Sam Zambuto would not comment on pending litigation. He pointed out that monthly railroad tickets are discounted by about 50 percent compared with the cost of daily tickets for every workday in a month.

The monthly tickets "allow travel when the railroad is running, and the railroad only runs when it's safe to do so," said Zambuto, who added that this winter has been the worst for the LIRR in 15 years. Winter storms on Dec. 26-27, Jan. 12 and Feb. 2 caused widespread service problems.

Stathakos' attorney, Kenneth Mollins of Melville, said monthly customers aren't paying for a particular number of rides in a month, but for the right to ride the LIRR as much as they want during every day of a month. They should be reimbursed if they cannot do so on some days, he said.

"When you pay for service, that payment takes into consideration that you're going to get services every day," Mollins said. "The real issue is that if you pay for service, you should get service. And if you don't, you should get reimbursed. . . . Not only is that legally correct, it's morally correct."

LIRR Commuter Council Vice Chairman Gerry Bringmann, who also commutes on the Port Jefferson line, said the only time he remembers getting a prorated refund was in 1994, when a union strike shut down the LIRR for two days.

Bringmann said in Stathakos' case, the LIRR had no control over conditions causing service stoppage. Processing partial refunds for riders would incur administrative costs that could be passed to customers, he added.

"We can understand his frustration," Bringmann said of Stathakos. "But it's probably more trouble than it's worth."

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