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BUS RIDER SETTLES FOR $515,000 FROM NFTA IN NEGLIGENCE SUIT

A Buffalo woman has accepted a $515,000 settlement from the NFTA for injuries suffered more than two years ago when she was accidentally caught in the rear door of a bus while exiting and then was carried to the next stop and dropped to the pavement.

Carole Smith, 43, a former Buffalo public school teacher's aide and day-care worker, needed bone grafts to her spine after the fall, according to her attorney, Patrick J. Brown, who said she may need additional surgery.

NFTA attorneys made the settlement offer just before jury selection was about to begin in Mrs. Smith's negligence lawsuit in State Supreme Court.

The incident occurred at about 7:40 a.m. March 31, 1995, as Mrs. Smith was leaving a Sycamore bus on Washington Street near West Huron Street.

After putting her right foot on the pavement, Brown said, Mrs. Smith turned to reach for her 4-year-old son when the electronically controlled door closed on her, leaving her legs hanging outside. The bus then began moving.

Passengers yelled, and Mrs. Smith's husband, Coleman, ran to the front of the bus to get the driver to stop, Brown said. The bus proceeded 100 yards to the next stop at Eagle Street before it stopped and the doors opened.

Mrs. Smith fell into the street and the bus driver drove away without offering assistance, Brown said.

NFTA spokesman Harry Spector said the accident was reviewed by a Metro committee and the driver involved had seven points deducted from his performance record. A 12-point deduction would have led to his dismissal, he said. The driver retired in 1996.

Metro mechanics also now conduct more-frequent inspections on the sensor, which failed to detect that the woman was in the doorway, Spector said.

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