Court Awards $20,000 in Damages to Woman Arrested for Not Holding Escalator Handrail

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A Canadian woman arrested in 2009 for not holding onto an escalator handrail has been awarded $20,000 in damages by the country’s Supreme Court on Friday.

Ten years ago, Bela Kosoian was riding the escalator at the Montmorency Montreal Metro station in Laval, Quebec, when a police officer stopped her for not holding onto the handrail as she searched through her purse.

There were “caution” and “hold handrail” signs posted near the escalator.

The officer told her to keep holding onto the handrail while she was riding the escalator and stopped her once she reached the bottom. When he asked her to follow him and present identification, she refused “because she didn’t think she had done anything wrong,” according to the online case brief from the Supreme Court of Canada.

The officer detained Kosoian, gave her a $100 ticket for disobeying the signs, and fined her $320 for obstructing an inspection worker.

She was acquitted on all counts as of 2012, putting her in a position to sue Montreal’s transit authority, the city of Montreal, and one of the police officers for $45,000, CBC News reported.

Quebec’s court rejected the lawsuit in 2015, and Quebec’s Court of Appeal also rejected the lawsuit two years later.

But the Supreme Court “unanimously disagreed,” saying the Metro station sign was merely a warning and not a law. The court added that the officer was in the wrong to arrest her “for breaking a law that didn’t exist.”

“A reasonable police officer should have known that people didn’t have to hold handrails. Or at least they should have had some doubt,” the court ruling stated, adding, “Even if Ms. Kosoian didn’t act in the best way, she had no legal obligation to hold the handrail.”

The court ruled that Kosoian be paid $20,000 Canadian dollars, or roughly $15,000 USD in damages.

Kosoian said she was happy the judge felt her case was important enough to be heard before the Supreme Court of Canada.

“I knew that I didn’t do anything wrong. It was the principle of it,” she said. “I knew, I knew, I knew.”

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