MIAMI — After years of watching Miami-Dade County buses failing to stop for him and his wheelchair, and some drivers giving him attitude when they did stop, a 73-year-old retiree filed a lawsuit against the county last week in a Miami court.
“It’s bad out there and it’s only getting worse,” says David Marrero, a Cuban expat and retired truck driver who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. “And I’m tired of it. It’s the first time I sue anyone, but it’s the right time.”
Marrero, a Miami Beach resident, used an incident that allegedly occurred Oct. 15, 2016 and, he claims, cost him $3,000 in repairs to his motorized wheelchair as backdrop for his negligence lawsuit.
That rainy day at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Fifth Street in Miami Beach, Marrero claims in the lawsuit, he watched two Miami-Dade Transit buses pass by him without stopping.
After another 15 minutes of waiting, the lawsuit reads, a bus finally stopped. The driver, however, refused to help him get onboard.
The lawsuit reads it took 10 to 15 minutes of coaxing, in the pouring rain, for the driver to get off his seat and help Marrero.
But then, the lawsuit reads, the electric wheelchair sustained water damages and shorted.
“I was on my way to doctor’s appointment,” says Marrero by telephone in a call that made him sound like a soft-spoken elderly gentleman. “My chair just quit on me and I missed the appointment.”
Beside reimbursements for the repairs to his chair, Marrero says he wants MDT drivers to change how they treat handicapped riders.
“I’m a human being,” Marrero says in today’s interview. “It used to be no problem because the drivers were professional. But things have been changing. They’re not as helpful as they used to be.”
Once onboard that October day, Marrero says, the rest of the ride wasn’t much easier. His lawsuit claims fellow riders took to yelling at him because the bus was getting late.
The driver, who is unidentified, allowed the heckling to go on, the lawsuit claims.
“One guy kept calling me an old lady,” Marrero said by telephone. “He said: ‘Hurry up, old lady, or I’m going to slap you.’”
MDT spokeswoman Karla Damian declined comment on the case. MDT has yet to be served.
The agency’s website, meanwhile, is clear that users in wheelchairs can ask drivers for help using a lift that most buses are equipped with: “Customers who use wheelchairs or mobility aids have the right to board and exit Metrobus first. The lift permits both inboard and outboard facing of customers who use wheelchairs and mobility aids. Ask the bus operator if in need of assistance.”
According to the lawsuit, MDT officials reviewed a bus surveillance video of the incident but told Marrero the agency is not liable for what happened.
The same officials then refused to release the video.
Said Alejandra Aguilera, Marrero’s attorney: “As agents of Miami-Dade County, bus drivers have a duty to help handicapped riders access their bus.”