DC Man who “Slipped” on Banana Peel now Accused of Fraud1, Insurance Fraud — By Trace America on November 27, 2013 at 11:50 AM
Since the beginning of the 20th century, slipping on a banana peel has been a mainstay in physical comedy. Vaudeville comedian “Sliding” Billy Watson is allegedly the self-proclaimed inventor of the banana-peel slip-ups, which have happened in dozens of movies since. And even though this recent incident was caught on camera, it was definitely not a comedy routine. It is actually the opposite, as it is now being used against a Washington, DC man in a case involving insurance fraud charges.
According to The Washington Post, it was an early August night when Maurice Owens was riding in an elevator at the Potomac Avenue Metro station. While there, he says he slipped on a banana peel as he was exiting an elevator, which caused him to injure his hip and leg.
Mr. Owens went on to sue the transit agency for $15,000, partly to cover $4,500 in chiropractor bills. Why he needed a chiropractor for the “injury” you will see in the video is beyond me.
He may have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for the video camera that caught the whole thing. And it wasn’t like he didn’t see the camera; the video shows him looking into it at least three times.
The claim was thrown out, and Owens, 42, was charged with felony second-degree fraud.
“Through our investment in digital camera systems across the system, we are demonstrating our commitment to protecting fare-paying riders and the region’s taxpayers from fraudulent claims,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.
This whole story starts when Owens is shown entering an empty elevator at about 9 p.m. on August 8th. He paces around a bit, glances up into the elevator’s camera, paces some more, and then glances at the camera again. When he gets on the elevator, there is also nothing in front of the doors; but it shows up in a little while. According to a Metro Transit Police report, “this object was later identified as a banana peel.”
At the end of the video, as the elevator doors open, revealing Owen’s obviously terrible acting skills, he falls to the ground, half inside the elevator.
Afterward, Owens reports his injuries to the station manager, the Metro Transit Police are called, and Owens is taken to Howard University Hospital. Then, about two weeks later, Owens filed his claim against Metro.
Stessel says, “What you will see in the camera footage is that the elevator, just prior to Mr. Owens boarding, shows there’s nothing on the floor. He is then seen with what appears to be a banana peel in his hand, looking in the direction of the camera. An object can be seen on the ground, and then when the elevator doors open, he steps on the object, thrusts himself forward and falls out of the elevator.”
According to the police report, when being interviewed by Metro officials, Owens reportedly asked why a custodian for the station had “not cleaned up the banana peel prior to his entering the elevator.”
Once Metro presented its case to the U.S. attorney’s office, a warrant was issued accusing Owens of fraud, and he was later arrested.
At a hearing this month, Owens was ordered by a D.C. Superior Court judge to have a mental-health screening and evaluation. He is scheduled to go back to court on December 2nd.
On an even less funny note, Metro’s Third Party Claims office receives about 225 claims each month. Most are seeking compensation for slips and falls on station platforms, stairs, escalators, elevators and buses, or while getting on and off trains. Fewer than half of those claims result in a settlement, and the average payout is less than $2,500.
Some of the smaller examples over the past few years consist of a case where the agency paid $50 to a Metro rider who said oil dripped onto his shirt; $45 to a rider who claimed to have gotten his sandal stuck in an escalator; $104.37 to a driver who said the gate at a parking garage came down on his vehicle; and $100 to a person who said he lost his footing while walking down steps at the Branch Avenue Metro station.
Stessel noted that Metro does sometimes open a claim by itself. “For example, if a person gets transported to the hospital, we will automatically open a claim. If the person never gets in touch with us, it is classified as ‘abandoned.’”
This post is authored by Trace America.