The family of a woman who plummeted over 30-feet from an escalator at the World Trade Center Oculus transit center has filed a claim of wrongful death based on negligence. Jennifer Santos was a 29-year-old teacher in New Jersey who was returning home with her twin sister heading to reach the PATH train. The suit filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court brought by Maria Santos, her mother, names the New York & New Jersey Port Authority and Allied Universal Security Service as the defendants. The claim states that Santos fell from “an unprotected, unsecured, & dangerous & hazardous opening.”
Reports indicated that Santos was perhaps laying on the railing of the escalator or jokingly reaching for her sister's hat at the time when she lost her balance and fell. Jessica, her twin sister, was stunned as her sister fell to the marble floor of the concourse below. The suit says that Jennifer endured pre-impact terror before suffering significant injuries to her head that killed her.
Allied Universal Security Services, who is contracted for the security at the Oculus, is accused of negligence in how they hire, train and supervise their staff. One security officer was alleged to have witnessed the incident where Santos was said to have entered a “hazardous and dangerous opening” and did not provide assistance. The suit is seeking damages above the limits of the lower courts that is “just, reasonable, and fair”.
Jennifer was a graduate of William Paterson University in New Jersey with a BS in Physical Education & Health and was working as a substitute teacher for students between kindergarten and 12th grade. She was described as being very close with her family, particularly with her twin sister, who says she has very fond memories.
It may be interesting to see if the Port Authority will have grounds for employing an immunity defense based on their standing as a transportation agency for the states of New York and New Jersey. Laws have traditionally shielded governmental entities from civil claims depending on the circumstances. The Port Authority was granted a favorable ruling from the New York Court of Appeals for liability involving the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, based on being an agent operating for the government. The Port Authority policed the World Trade Center, which they owned at the time. The World Trade Center Oculus transit center is a $4 billion project that has been open for approximately one year and contains a shopping mall.
Actions for wrongful death according to New York law arise when the death of an individual is the result of wrongful conduct by another party. A personal representative of the deceased may bring a claim. To prevail in a wrongful death action, the following must be proven:
- The defendant demonstrated negligent action
- This negligent behavior was the cause of death
- There are survivors such as a spouse, children, or other dependents
- The survivors face adverse financial consequences