Elderly woman dropped face-first from wheelchair sues paratransit agency in state court

By Jon Campisi | Mar 25, 2013

An elderly Philadelphia woman asserts in a newly filed personal injury complaint that she

suffered facial lacerations and other injuries when she was dropped by a transit employee who had been carrying the wheelchair-bound plaintiff up her front stairs in the fall of 2011.

Mary Torelli, who was 79 at the time of the incident, claims that a worker with MV Transportation Inc., a Fairfield, Calif. business that contracts with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority to aid physically disabled senior citizens, was carrying her wheelchair up the front cement steps to her rowhome when, at the fourth or fifth step, the employee dropped the plaintiff out of her chair, and onto the ground below face-first.

The lawsuit, which was filed March 20 at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas by Philadelphia attorney Gabriel Z. Levin, of the firm Levin & Zeiger, says that Torelli was being dropped off at her home on Oct. 12, 2011, when she was dropped out of her wheelchair.

The fall caused the plaintiff to sustain facial lacerations, a finger gash, bruised toes and other injuries, the complaint alleges.

The wheelchair allegedly fell on top of Torelli after she hit the ground face-first.

As part of the defendant’s contract with SEPTA, MV Transportation employees provide paratransit services to customers who require special assistance, such as elderly residents, and the workers are supposed to assist customers from the MV vehicle to their homes.

“The Defendant in this case is a common carrier who is required by law to use a higher degree of care for the safety of its passengers than ordinarily imposed on others,” the complaint reads. “This obligation requires the carrier to use the highest degree of diligence and care in the operation of its vehicle and the care of its passengers.”

The lawsuit further states that while there were two employees of the defendant driving Torelli on that day, only one of the employees got out of the vehicle to help the plaintiff ascend her front steps.

After being helped inside her home following the fall, Torelli was eventually taken to the emergency room where she received treatment for her injuries.

As a result of the incident, Torelli has been unable to engage in many personal activities or has a reduced ability to do so, the lawsuit claims.

The complaint also says that the plaintiff continues to suffer from pain and discomfort, her physical appearance has been altered as a result of the fall, and she continues to suffer from emotional distress.

The complaint contains counts of negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, vicarious liability, negligent hiring, negligent retention and negligent supervision.

The plaintiff seeks more than $50,000 in compensatory damages, unspecified punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs.


The case ID number is 130302873. 

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