All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for September 2003

Bus driver with MS sues

She wants back behind TA wheel

September 3, 2003
By John Marzulli
Daily News Staff Writer
NY Daily News

A former city bus driver is suing the Transit Authority for taking her off the road because she has multiple sclerosis.

Deborah Bynum contends the TA discriminated against her because of her illness when it demoted her from a driver making $21.37 an hour to a $13.29-an-hour security guard.

Bynum, 38, developed the neurological disease after she was hired in 1997. Her symptoms included difficulty gripping the steering wheel tightly, according to court records.

She was taken off the road in 1999 and demoted in 2000. The disease is now in remission.

Brooklyn Federal Judge Edward Korman rejected yesterday the TA's motion to throw out the suit.

While the TA's doctors said it was too risky to allow a driver with MS behind the wheel of a 19-ton bus, other doctors who examined Bynum disagreed.

"It can hardly be disputed that a bus accident in New York City could potentially cause tremendous harm," Korman wrote in his decision.

But he added: "The [TA] physicians ignored persuasive and impartial medical expert evidence of Bynum's condition by relying on medical standards that automatically disqualify anyone ever having had MS from operating a bus."

Korman noted that none of the TA doctors who examined Bynum was a neurologist, and the specialists she consulted all concluded her condition would not interfere with driving a bus.

Without case-by-case assessments, the TA's policy amounted to a "blanket rejection of all individuals with this disability," Korman said.

"We are pleased the judge is allowing the case to go forward," Bynum's lawyer John Moehringer said.

TA spokesman Paul Fleuranges said the agency's lawyers are reviewing the decision.

Bynum's symptoms included "difficulty gripping the wheel tightly," "numbness in her feet, knee, thigh" and "urinary and bowel discomfort," according to court records.

She was treated with steroids and no longer has the symptoms. An independent doctor, Stephen Gilbert, who examined Bynum said there was no way to predict whether or when she would suffer another attack, court records say.

"It makes no sense not to allow her to drive while awaiting an attack which may never occur," Gilbert said, according to the documents.

Bynum filed the suit in 2001, seeking unspecified monetary damages, back pay and reinstatement as a bus driver.

Copyright © 2003, Daily News, L.P.