Articles Posted in Train Accidents

A recent Illinois personal injury lawsuit evaluated the degree of duty a railroad owes to protect trespassers from becoming injured on its property. Dominic Choate v. Indiana Harbor Belt RR Co., et al., No. 1-10-0209 (June 2011), was filed after a 12 year-old boy required a leg amputation after falling from a moving freight train. A Cook County jury found the railroad negligence and awarded the boy $6.5 million for his injuries; an Illinois appellate court then affirmed the verdict after reviewing the case facts.

In July 2003, Dominic Choate was heading home from a friend’s house when he decided to take a shortcut that required him to cross some train tracks. As he approached the train tracks, a freight train was driving by at about 9 to 10 mph. Choate decided to climb a ladder on the side of one of the passing freight cars, but fell from the moving train. The train then ran over his left foot, causing a below the knee amputation as a result of the train accident.

Choate filed a lawsuit against Indiana Harbor Belt RR Co. (IHB), the railroad company that owned the right-of-way where Choate had attempted to board the train. The complaint alleged that IHB was aware that children were regularly crossing the train tracks at that location and failed to take steps to defer children from trespassing and crossing at that location. The plaintiff was critical of the railroad’s failure to warn children of the tracks’ danger and that it did not fence in its property or otherwise prevent children from trespassing.

The defense responded by stating that it did not have a duty to prevent Choate from trespassing and that he was old enough to be aware of the dangers of train tracks. While the jury did find Choate partly responsible for his own injury, it still found that 60% of the fault lay with IHB. It entered a $6.5 million verdict against the railroad company, which was then reduced to $3.9 million after allowing for Choate’s contributory negligence.

Continue reading

The Illinois jury verdict of $700,000 in Marjorie McDonald, etc. v. Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp., etc., 2011 IL App. (1st) 102766, was upheld by the Illinois First District Appellate Court. The original personal injury lawsuit involved a train accident involving a Metra train that occurred in 2002. The Cook County jury held the train engineer and Metra liable for the injuries Thomas McDonald sustained while in a pedestrian train crossing.

The 79 year-old McDonald was crossing the train tracks at a North Glenview Metra station when a train began approaching. The Metra engineer sounded the horn to alert McDonald; however, the train ended up striking the pedestrian. As a result of the train accident, McDonald’s arm was severed. McDonald died of unrelated causes shortly thereafter and his wife brought a lawsuit against Metra and its agents on his behalf.

The Illinois personal injury lawsuit alleged that Metra was liable for the train accident because it had not ensured that pedestrian signals were installed. According to the plaintiff’s attorneys, the lack of pedestrian signals failed to provide an adequate warning to McDonald that the train was approaching. Furthermore, the plaintiff alleged that the train engineer failed to sound the horn in time to provide McDonald with an adequate warning.

Continue reading

On June 24, 2011, a Union Pacific train traveling from Chicago to California was involved in a railroad crossing accident in rural Nevada. A semitrailer truck ran the crossing and struck the moving train, injuring several passengers and killing the truck driver and a crew member. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently conducting an investigation of what caused the crash and how it might have been prevented.

One of the avenues the NTSB is pursuing is whether or not the truck driver’s judgment was impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the train crossing accident. However, because the driver died as a result of the crash, the NTSB must examine autopsy records in order to make this determination. In addition, the NTSB is reviewing the truck driver’s driving history in order to gain insight into what might have happened.

The NTSB is also investigating the extent that the railroad itself contributed to the train accident. The NTSB will make sure that its safety standards were followed and that both the crossing lights and gates were operating correctly at the time of the train accident. However, report released by the Nevada Highway Patrol, who is also investigating the crash, stated that the warning lights and railroad gates were working at the time of the train accident.

Continue reading

A recent Cook County personal injury lawsuit involving a railway worker who was injured at work exemplifies many of the typical components for worksite injury lawsuits. Not only were there several defendants involved whom the injured worker held responsible for his work injury, but the defendants alleged that the railroad worker was actually responsible for his own injury. It was up to the jury in James Barnicle v. Belt Railway Company of Chicago, 06 L 1325, to decide who was at fault for the railroad accident.

In order to determine who was at fault, the jury must first examine the case facts. At the time of the work accident, 48 year-old James Barnicle was working as a railroad switchman for The Belt Railway Company of Chicago. His duties involved switching railcars traveling in and out of the Exxon Mobil plant located off Cicero Avenue. However, as he was engaging a track switch, it unexpectedly jerked towards him, causing an injury to his lumbar spine.

Barnicle claimed that the specific track switch was defective and that Exxon Mobil had prior notice of this defect. Plaintiff’s lawyers attempted to establish the prior notice by submitting evidence that other employees had reported that the switch was difficult to operate and in need of repair. The idea being that if the jury believed that Exxon knew that the track switch was defective, but did nothing to repair the switch, then Exxon would be responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Continue reading

An Illinois Appellate Court was asked to evaluate whether a trial judge correctly adjusted a Cook County jury’s verdict in a Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) lawsuit. The jury had originally reduced the plaintiff’s award by 40% for what it determined was his contributory negligence; however, the trial judge later ruled that contributory negligence did not apply because of the unique circumstances of the lawsuit. The appellate court agreed with the trial judge, backing up his decision to restore the original $500,000 verdict to the plaintiff in Harry Balough v. Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation, etc., No. 1-09-3053.

The original FELA lawsuit was brought after Balough, a locomotive driver, became injured in a Chicago rail yard. Balough was boarding an engine to prepare the trains for service when a trapdoor he was standing on gave way, hitting Balough on his head. Prior to stepping onto the trapdoor Balough testified that he had followed the railroad’s rules regarding trapdoor use by first giving the door a horizontal tug prior to boarding. Balough further testified that when he did so the latched seemed firmly latched.

Yet, the trapdoor still failed, causing Balough to require stitches to his head. In addition, shortly after returning to work after the train accident, Balough began suffering from blurred vision and migraine headaches. He continues to experience both of these symptoms on a regular basis and has since been removed from his position as a locomotive driver and placed on permanent disability.

Continue reading

A Cook County jury entered a $246,000 verdict against the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for an injury a computer sustained after getting caught in a turnstile in the Illinois personal injury claim of Tekuru Kpea v. Chicago Transit Authority, 08 L 5324. The plaintiff, Tekuru Kpea, sustained severe injuries to his leg and part of the damages went towards his future medical care and surgeries.

In 2004, Kpea was passing through a fare-card turnstile at the CTA’s Green Line Kedzie Station when his left leg became caught in the turnstile. In addition, this caused Kpea to fall forward, twisting his left leg while his knee remained stuck in the turnstile. As a result of his personal injury, Kpea sustained a left leg fracture, specifically to his left tibial plateau.

Kpea’s personal injury was so severe that he required an open reduction internal fixation surgery of his left tibial plateau, which involves fixing the bones in place with metal rods and screws. While these metal implements aid the bone in healing properly, they increase the risk for infection because there are now foreign bodies in one’s leg. Unfortunately, this is what happened in Kpea’s case – he developed a post-operative infection which required several corrective surgeries.

Continue reading

A Cook County jury returned a verdict of over $1.5 million in Joseph Walters v. Belt Railway Company of Chicago, Chicago Northern Railroad Co., Gunderson Rail Services n/k/a Greenbrier Rail Services, 06 L-7349, an Illinois personal injury lawsuit for a railroad employee who was injured on the job. Since the railroad had already admitted liability for the train accident prior to trial, the Illinois verdict involved issues of damages only, e.g., loss of normal life, past and future pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost income.

Joseph Walters was a railroad freight conductor working at a clearing yard owned by Belt Railway Company of Chicago in Bedford Park, Illinois. Mr. Walters fell from a train car after a grab-iron handhold that he was holding detached from the car. Grab-irons are the handles on the outside of trains that railroad employees use to hold onto the cars. As a result of his train accident, the railroad worker sustained a herniated disc at his L4-L5 spine and a rotator cuff tear.

The 41 year-old underwent multiple surgeries, including a spinal fusion and rotator cuff repair surgery, but was still left with permanent disabilities. In addition, Mr. Walters’s prolonged pain led to the long-term use of various narcotic pain medications, which he claimed led to chronic constipation, hemorrhoids, and hernia repair surgery.

Continue reading

A former railroad worker found not able to pursue his Illinois railroad litigation case because his testifying medical experts were unable to identify the specific cause of the his injuries. The Illinois railroad litigation case was dismissed by the district court, a decision that was then affirmed at the appellate level in the case of Myers v. Illinois Central Railroad Co., d/b/a Canadian National/Illinois Central Railroad Co., No. 10-1279.

Timothy Myers, the 50 year-old plaintiff, had worked for the Illinois Central Railroad for 30 years as a brakeman, switchman, and conductor before retiring. He brought the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) lawsuit to recover damages for injuries he suffered from cumulative trauma sustained by his elbow, knee, neck and back.

Myers based his FELA lawsuit on reports from three doctors and an ergonomist that opined that his injuries were caused by the railroad’s negligence. However, the court did not consider any of this expert testimony when ruling on the railroad’s motion to dismiss the case. As a result, the court granted a summary judgment in favor of the Illinois Central Railroad, a decision which Myers sought to have appealed by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Continue reading

The Illinois Appellate Court, First District, reversed a Cook County Circuit Court judge’s ruling which stated that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) was immune from liability under §27 of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act. The case, Torf v. Chicago Transit Authority, No. 1-09-1710, was remanded back to the lower court for further handling after the Illinois Appellate Court determined there were questions as to material facts yet to be answered in the Illinois train accident case.

Torf involves a 2007 incident on a CTA redline train at the Cermak/Chinatown station. Shortly after departing from the L-station, the train line’s power was shut off and all passengers, including Marla Beth Torf and her husband, were ordered to evacuate onto the tracks. In order to get down to the tracks, Ms. Torf first sat down on the train floor near its doors with the intention of sliding down from there. However, before she was able to do so, another CTA passenger knocked her down, causing her to sustain personal injuries.

Torf filed a complaint against the CTA that alleged the train operator owed her a duty to exercise the highest degree of care to protect the safety of its passengers. The plaintiff alleged that the CTA was negligent and had breached that duty during Ms. Torf’s train accident. In response, the CTA filed a motion for summary judgment which alleged that the plaintiff’s injuries were in fact caused by a criminal assault.

Continue reading

Two railroads have been sued following the death of 26 year-old Katie Lunn. Ms. Lunn, was killed when an Amtrak train travelling 70 mph struck her SUV which was stopped on the tracks in heavy traffic. The Illinois train accident took place on Stuenkel Road and Governors Highway in south suburban Monee, Illinois.

The Federal Railroad Administration had determined that before the Illinois train crash, flashing lights, bells and crossing gates had been inadvertently turned off while repairs were being made.

An Illinois train accident lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County claiming negligence on the part of Illinois Central Railroad and Wisconsin Central, Ltd. The two railroads are owned by the Canadian National Railway Company.

Although the federal investigation had cleared Amtrak of any responsibility for causing the incident, Amtrak could still be on the hook to pay for the wrongful death of Ms. Lunn. That may be because Amtrak had an operating agreement with Illinois Central that required it to indemnify and hold harmless Illinois Central against any negligence or fault on the part of Illinois Central or its employees. This is a typical type of indemnification clause found in many cooperating contracts.

Continue reading