Share story

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has paid nearly $3.3 million in settlements for bodily injuries or property damage from 2012 to 2017, according to claims data.

Last year also saw the highest number of incidents and claims settlements involving the transportation authority’s buses over that period, the Kansas City Star reported .

Oralee Watkins is among nearly 500 people who received settlements from the bus authority in the last five years. Watkins was walking across a street in 2013 when a Kansas City bus hit her, rolling her across the asphalt.

Watkins received $100,000 settlement. Her medical expenses for organ damage and broken bones exceeded $200,000, according to a lawsuit filed before the settlement.

The newspaper could not reach Watkins for comment.

The authority isn’t a city department, but the city negotiates the settlements. The transportation authority is largely funded by taxpayers, so mishaps and accidents cost residents.

The city often requires recipients to sign non-disclosure agreements prohibiting them from discussing the incidents.

“There’s no question it (the agreements) stops the free flow of information,” said Mark Johnson, a Kansas City attorney. “You don’t have the information about what the accident experience is with this government entity, whether drivers are driving safely or if buses aren’t maintained properly and causing accidents.”

Johnson questioned whether non-disclosure agreements can actually be enforceable with taxpayer-funded agencies.

Non-disclosure language protects the privacy of individuals involved in a resolution, said Patrick Hurley, an attorney with the transportation authority.

Claims case numbers may be high or inflated due to fraudulent claims from passengers or staged accidents, said Stephen Berry, deputy director of Transit Safety, Security and Workforce Development at the Center for Urban Transportation Research.

He said the transit industry should “protect themselves on fraudulent claims.”


Information from: The Kansas City Star,