SEPTA rider previously found not credible in supermarket slip-and-fall now faces insurance fraud charges stemming from mass transit incident

By Jon Campisi | Jun 4, 2013

In a story that has become all too familiar in recent months, a mass transit rider is facing

charges by city prosecutors that allege he filed a false personal injury claim against the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

The office of Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams announced charges late last week against 55-year-old Lance Henderson over an alleged fraudulent injury claim he submitted to SEPTA just days prior.

The incident leading to the charges against Henderson involved the defendant alleging he became injured after the Route 46 bus closed on his foot, according to a May 31 account from the District Attorney’s Office, which announced the insurance fraud and attempted theft by deception charges against Henderson, who is expected to face a judge on June 4.

Henderson, who was a passenger on the bus on May 24, claimed that he sustained injuries after the operator of the bus, who was concluding his shift for the day, closed the door on the defendant’s foot while the driver was exiting the vehicle.

The alleged incident happened while the bus was stopped at 60th and Callowhill Streets.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Henderson informed the new operator of the bus who was taking over for the previous driver that the other driver had closed the door on the commuter’s foot.

Paramedics were called to the scene, and Henderson claimed that he yelled for help for about a minute before another man came to his aid, the record shows.

The first bus driver later told authorities that he had heard a passenger comment that his umbrella had become stuck in the door.

That driver also claimed to have left the door open when he exited the bus during the shift change.

Henderson went on to seek medical treatment for pain to his left ankle, as well as physical therapy, and claimed to have gone to approximately 44 doctor’s appointments during the ensuing eight months, according to the prosecutor’s office.

After informing physicians that he had not only injured his foot, but his back, shoulder, hip and knee as well, Henderson retained legal counsel to file a civil suit over the alleged injuries he sustained while aboard the SEPTA bus.

Henderson’s lawyer subsequently submitted more than $5,000 worth of medical bills, the D.A.’s Office stated.

As has been the case in other, recent arrests for insurance fraud against SEPTA, the tale of the tape appears to debunk Henderson’s claims, with video surveillance showing that the bus’s door never seemed to close directly on Henderson’s foot or ankle, nor does his other body parts appear to be affected.

The video does, however, show that when the door closed, it made “light” contact with Henderson’s hat.

Henderson was arrested on May 28 with detectives from the District Attorney’s Office’s Insurance Fraud Unit.

In a slight twist, the record shows that this isn’t Henderson’s first brush with the law stemming from a similar crime.

According to the D.A.’s Office, Henderson was arrested by detectives with the prosecutor’s office on April 23, just a month before the SEPTA incident, and charged with insurance fraud and attempted theft by deception, as well as perjury, for a 2011 incident at a city supermarket.

In that case, Henderson had filed a personal injury claim against Fresh Grocer for an alleged incident in which he tripped and fell at the grocery store due to a piece of metal jutting out from a refrigerated case.

While Henderson reported that incident to store employees, he never sought medical attention and didn’t appear to be injured, according to the D.A.’s Office.

Nevertheless, Henderson went to the hospital that evening for treatment relating to pain in his right ankle.

During the next few months, Henderson sought physical therapy and visited a doctor more than 25 times.

Again, Henderson retained a lawyer, who went on to submit more than $5,000 worth of medical bills in connection with his client’s alleged injuries.

During an arbitration hearing, Henderson testified that he injured his neck, back, foot and knees as a result of the Fresh Grocer incident, although arbitrators ultimately ruled against Henderson and in favor of the supermarket, the record shows.

As in the SEPTA case, investigators obtained store surveillance video that appeared to contradict Henderson’s claims.

That video showed that Henderson never came into contact with any protruding metal and that he never even fell to the ground as he had claimed.

Records at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas do not reflect any civil suit filed by Henderson stemming from the SEPTA incident this month, meaning litigation might not have yet been initiated at the point of Henderson’s arrest.

There are records, however, relating to the Fresh Grocer incident, showing that that suit was filed at Common Pleas Court on July 10, 2012 by Jenkintown, Pa. attorney Kenneth Saffren, of the firm Saffren & Weinberg.

The court docket in that case shows that an arbitrator found in favor of the supermarket in mid-March of this year.

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