The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

State & National News

November 28, 2013

Man loses banana peel injury case, faces criminal charges

Thursday, November 28, 2013 — It was the video that did him in.

One night in early August, Maurice Owens was riding an elevator at a Washington Metro station when, he says, he slipped on a banana peel as he was getting off, injuring his hip and leg.

He sued the transit agency for $15,000 - in part to cover $4,500 in chiropractor bills.

Problem is, the whole incident was caught on tape - and the tape showed something different.

The claim against Metro was thrown out, and Owens, 42, ended up being charged with second-degree fraud, a felony.

"Through our investment in digital camera systems across the system, we are demonstrating our commitment to protecting fare-paying riders and the region's taxpayers from fraudulent claims," said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

Here's how the scene played out: About 9 p.m. Aug. 8, Owens can be seen entering an empty elevator in the station.

He paces around a bit, then glances up into the elevator's camera. More pacing. Another glance at the camera. In fact, in the video, which is about 90 seconds long, Owens is seen looking into the camera at least three times.

Near the end of the video, as the elevator doors open, Owens can be seen flipping something onto the floor behind him. According to a Metro Transit Police report "this object was later identified as a banana peel."

In a dramatic gesture, Owens falls to the ground - half his body inside the elevator, half outside.

Owens reported his injuries to the station manager, Metro Transit Police was called, and he was transported to Howard University Hospital Center for treatment.

About two weeks later, Owens filed his claim against Metro.

"What you will see in the camera footage is that the elevator, just prior to Mr. Owens boarding, shows there's nothing on the floor," Stessel said.

"He is then seen with what appears to be a banana peel in his hand, looking in the direction of the camera," Stessel said. "An object can be seen on the ground, and then when the elevator doors open, he steps on the object, thrusts himself forward and falls out of the elevator."

In an interview with Metro officials, Owens reportedly asked why a custodian for the station had "not cleaned up the banana peel prior to his entering the elevator," according to the police report.

Owens did not return a message left Tuesday at his Washington home.

Metro presented its case to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District. A warrant was issued accusing Owens of fraud, and he was arrested.

At a hearing earlier this month, a D.C. Superior Court judge ordered Owens to undergo a mental health screening and evaluation. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.

Slapstick references aside, the case is one of the roughly 225 claims Metro's Third Party Claims office receives each month. Most seek compensation for slips and falls on station platforms, stairs, escalators, elevators and buses, or while getting on and off trains.

Fewer than half those claims result in a settlement or payout from Metro, and the average payout is less than $2,500, Stessel said.

For example, over the past few years the agency paid: $50 to a Metro rider who said oil dripped from the air conditioner of a rail car onto his shirt, $45 to a rider who claimed to have gotten his sandal stuck in an escalator at West Falls Church, $104.37 to a driver who said the gate at the West Falls Church parking garage came down on his vehicle, and $100 to a person who said he lost his footing while walking down the steps at the Branch Avenue Metro station.

Stessel noted that Metro sometimes opens its own claims. "For example, if a person gets transported to the hospital, we will automatically open a claim. If the person never gets in touch with us, it is classified as 'abandoned,' " he said.

 

1
Text Only
State & National News
  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 20, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 20, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    WASHINGTON - Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 19, 2014

  • Why Facebook is getting into the banking game

    Who would want to use Facebook as a bank? That's the question that immediately arises from news that the social network intends to get into the electronic money business.

    April 15, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    WASHINGTON - The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 15, 2014

  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 15, 2014

  • Millions of Android phones, tablets vulnerable to Heartbleed bug

    SAN FRANCISCO - Millions of smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system have the Heartbleed software bug, in a sign of how broadly the flaw extends beyond the Web and into consumer devices.

    April 13, 2014

  • DayCareCosts.jpg Day care's cost can exceed college tuition in some states

    Most parents will deal with an even larger kid-related expense long before college, and it's a cost that very few of them are as prepared for: day care.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 12, 2014

  • Boston doctors can now prescribe you a bike

    The City of Boston this week is rolling out a new program that's whimsically known as "Prescribe-a-Bike." Part medicine, part welfare, the initiative allows doctors at Boston Medical Center to write "prescriptions" for low-income patients to get yearlong memberships to Hubway, the city's bike-share system, for only $5.

    April 12, 2014

House Ads
Seasonal Content