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Flat Tire Takes The Air Out of $2 Million Claim

February 2, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ A man who sued the Transit Authority for $2 million claiming a bus accident left him so weak he needed a cane to walk, withdrew his claim after the TA showed the judge a videotape of him changing a tire.

The case arose from an accident Feb. 27, 1983, in which a bus rear-ended a car driven by Ali Hanafi of the borough of Queens.

″The man claimed that he was reduced to walking with a shuffle with the aid of a cane and that he had lost so much strength in his upper body that he could no longer work as a counterman at a pizza joint,″ said TA spokesman Jared Lebow. ″His lawyer actually claimed in court that he was too weak to lift pizza dough.″

Barry F. Bernstein, a lawyer for Hanafi, who has since changed his name to Steven Haig, put Haig on the stand and called doctors to testify that he suffered post traumatic stress disorder.

On Wednesday, Bernstein offered to settle the case for $250,000.″ Lebow said. ″We declined.″

TA lawyer Michael Figliolia then produced the videotape, which was shown while the jury was out of the courtroom.

The tape, made Jan. 25, showed Haig changing a tire while Bernstein watched.

″The tire must have weighed 40 pounds and he used one hand to throw it in the trunk and Bernstein stood around watching,″ Figliolia said.

When the tape ended, Haig withdrew his claim and the judge dismissed the case.

Lebow said the videotape would be turned over to the district attorney and to the appellate division, ″because we feel the attorney should be subject to some discipline because he was supporting a phony claim.″

The telephone company had no listing for a Steven Haig. A number for Ali Hanafi was unlisted. He could not be reached for comment.

Bernstein defended his client saying, ″He was hit in the rear and he went straight to the hospital. He was taken straight from the scene by ambulance. He was unconscious.″

When asked if Haig was still suffering, Bernstein replied: ″His doctors say he is.″

Asked why Haig withdrew the claim, Bernstein said, ″It was his decision.″

Last year there were 3,228 injury claims filed against the TA and $38.6 million was paid out, either in judgments or settlements.

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