San Diego’s North County Transit District (NCTD) has settled a claim with a female passenger who was forcibly removed from a Coaster train by employees who believed the woman’s train pass was invalid. The entire altercation was caught on tape.
Encinitas resident Colinesha Sutton sued the NCTD over the case in small claims court back in February. The NCTD has now agreed to pay the plaintiff $10,000 to settle the case for good, in a way that won’t cost taxpayers money.
According to documents, the incident happened at around 2 p.m. on Aug. 6, 2013, at the Poinsettia Carlsbad Coaster Station.
In Sutton’s account of the day’s events, she said a Coaster employee – known only as “Paul” – was inspecting tickets asked her for proof of fare. Sutton said she gave him her Compass Pass and ID.
Paul then allegedly told Sutton her pass wasn’t activated and she needed to get off the train immediately. When the Coaster came to the stop in Carlsbad, Sutton said things got physical.
In moments caught on surveillance tape, employees are seen forcibly removing Sutton from the train.
Before ejecting her from the train, Sutton said Paul grabbed a cart filled with her belongings out of her hand and threw the cart out onto the platform. The cart can be seen lying on the ground in the video footage.
“He then proceeded to throw me off,” Sutton stated in her claim documents, adding that Paul asked for help from another NCTD employee and a passenger while kicking her off.
“Paul threw me off, my body hitting the concrete. He then got on top of me and cuffed me. He kept pushing me down and taunting me about ‘how come I’m familiar with the police.’ The police came and proved to him that my Compass Card is in fact valid and paid,” said Sutton.
Documents in this case also include statements from the ticket inspector and conductor, who recall things happening a bit differently.
The ticket inspector said he scanned Sutton’s Compass Card on his handheld unit and it showed the words “No fare product,” meaning the pass was no good. He told Sutton her pass was invalid and she said she had just used it on the bus. He asked to see her ID and the back-and-forth exchange went on for a while, escalating.
The employee said things turned physical when Sutton refused to get off the train. In case documents, he stated that Sutton was “combative,” threatened to sue him and called him a racist.
Once Sutton was taken off the train, the NCTD employee stayed with her until police arrived. Police soon determined that her train pass was, in fact, valid.
Aside from the $10,000 settlement to be paid to Sutton, the NCTD said they have apologized to the passenger over the incident. The employee involved in the case no longer works for the NCTD.
This week, the Transit District released this statement regarding the settlement:
“NCTD acknowledges that this unfortunate event occurred and we are disappointed that it happened. We have expressed our sincere apology to the customer involved in the incident. We have taken appropriate action in response to this incident that clearly falls outside of our expectations. The contracted employee involved in this incident is no longer working and will not in the future work on any of the services provided by NCTD. We have legally settled this matter without incurring any financial impact to taxpayers. NCTD takes great pride in the safe, reliable, and efficient services we provide to our customers.”