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Date: 10/28/06 19:13
$24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: GNR1938

I apologize in advance if this has already been posted, but for the love of Pete, who is in control of our judicial system? Is common sense now an absent commodity? When lawyers pass the bar is it a requirement to be missing any sense of personal responsibility?



$24.2 million for men burned atop rail car
Trespassing pair climbed boxcar as teens, were injured by electrical wires

Updated: 5:50 p.m. ET Oct 27, 2006
PHILADELPHIA - A federal jury awarded $24.2 million to two men who were severely burned by electrical wires when they trespassed onto railroad property and climbed atop a rail car.

Jeffrey Klein and Brett Birdwell, who were 17 at the time of the accident, sued Amtrak and Norfolk Southern Corp. after being burned by a 12,500-volt electrical wire in Lancaster in August 2002. In their lawsuit, they argued that the companies should have placed warning signs alerting people to the wires, which power locomotives.

Klein, who was burned over 75 percent of his body, was awarded more than $11 million in compensatory damages; Birdwell, who was burned over 18 percent of his body, was awarded more than $588,000. The jury also awarded a total of $12.5 million in punitive damages.

Attorneys for the companies said the two teens were old enough to recognize the dangers. But a lawyer for the teens said while they were trespassing, the law did not provide landowners with "blanket immunity."

The accident occurred after the men, who are now 22, decided they wanted to see the view from the top of the boxcar, according to the lawsuit. Klein was shocked by the wire, without touching it, and Birdwell was burned while he tried to help his friend.

Klein suffered second- and third-degree burns across much of his body and now has limited use of his left hand. Birdwell, who is now serving with the Army in Afghanistan, spent a year recovering from his burns.

The companies can appeal the verdict.



Date: 10/28/06 19:34
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: prr60

GNR1938 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I apologize in advance if this has already been
> posted, but for the love of Pete, who is in
> control of our judicial system? Is common sense
> now an absent commodity? When lawyers pass the
> bar is it a requirement to be missing any sense of
> personal responsibility?
>

When lawyers pass the Bar, they are to represent their clients to the best of their abilities. It is not their charge to determine right or wrong, fault or no fault. That is up to the judge or the jury. I would suggest the lawyers for these two individuals did a pretty good job. The lawyers that should be questioned are those who represented Amtrak and Norfolk Southern. They got trounced.

Some background: early in this case Amtrak and NS lost a motion to have these two people considered "adults". Because they were 17 at the time of the incident, they are "children" in the eyes of the law. Because of that definition, they are presumed to have immature judgement and cannot be held to the same standard of personal responsibility as "adults". The jury was to judge the accident and assess fault in that light unless Amtrak and NS could show cause otherwise. Apparently, Amtrak and NS were unsuccessful in doing that.

This was a pretty tough case for Amtrak and NS. Two kids, not drunk or drugged, who did something really stupid and paid a terrible price. A compelling case with sympathetic plaintiffs to put in front of a jury. Jurys who feel badly for plaintiffs tend to dole out a lot of cash, particularly from large, faceless corporations. Expect the verdict to stand but the award to be reduced.



Date: 10/28/06 20:00
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: bobs

How about suing the parents for failing to teach their kids not to trespass, to stay off railroad equipment and to stay away from power lines? While this seems like a huge amount, I agree it will most likely be reduced on appeal, if not thrown out altogether. I also think this is another verdict proving there's something wrong with tort law that allows such a judgement.



Date: 10/28/06 20:34
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: Scott

12,500 volts isn't the running voltage of the train is it? Wouldn't is be something like 600 volts?

12.5 K is usually the voltage the grid distribution system runs at.



Date: 10/28/06 20:53
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: ts1457

> The accident occurred after the men, who are now
> 22, decided they wanted to see the view from the
> top of the boxcar ...

Boxcar ??? With ladders to the roof? Maybe a covered hopper? If it was a boxcar, the attorneys for the defense really screwed up.



Date: 10/28/06 21:16
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: ProAmtrak

All I can say is they shouldn't of gotten awarded for that. When you're tresspassing you're tresspassing! This crap makes me sick!



Date: 10/28/06 21:36
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: Amtk509

I agree with ProAmtrak on this one. It's retards like these that cause the rule obeying railfans to get harassed by railroad officials even when we're not on railroad property.



Date: 10/28/06 22:31
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: fjc

It cracks me up that the morons (tresspassers) sue the RR's, and the RR's and judicial system buy into their crap most of the time. But the RR'ers who endure this crap on a daily basis, what do they get? They get to live with the agony of what happens in situations like this, and some never return.

Now lets look at RR'ers who go out injured or sick for varied reasons, we have nothing to fall back on like workers compensation, all we have is a measly RR Retirement Sickness Benefits that's taxed daily, you could have the nice BLET supplemental insurance if your RR elected to have it. Or, better yet you could purchase a seperate disability policy if you knew something was going to happen down the road, but how do you know that unless you have a cyrstal ball.

Just venting becasue there's so much on our RR system that's messed up, yet assholes like these teens who were electrified get tons of money for stupidity, and railroad folks fight hard to get something of nothing when they are down and out!



Date: 10/29/06 01:28
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: GNR1938

prr60 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> GNR1938 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > I apologize in advance if this has already been
> > posted, but for the love of Pete, who is in
> > control of our judicial system? Is common
> sense
> > now an absent commodity? When lawyers pass the
> > bar is it a requirement to be missing any sense
> of
> > personal responsibility?
> >
>
> When lawyers pass the Bar, they are to represent
> their clients to the best of their abilities. It
> is not their charge to determine right or wrong,
> fault or no fault. That is up to the judge or the
> jury. I would suggest the lawyers for these two
> individuals did a pretty good job. The lawyers
> that should be questioned are those who
> represented Amtrak and Norfolk Southern. They got
> trounced.
>
> Some background: early in this case Amtrak and NS
> lost a motion to have these two people considered
> "adults". Because they were 17 at the time of the
> incident, they are "children" in the eyes of the
> law. Because of that definition, they are
> presumed to have immature judgement and cannot be
> held to the same standard of personal
> responsibility as "adults". The jury was to judge
> the accident and assess fault in that light unless
> Amtrak and NS could show cause otherwise.
> Apparently, Amtrak and NS were unsuccessful in
> doing that.
>
> This was a pretty tough case for Amtrak and NS.
> Two kids, not drunk or drugged, who did something
> really stupid and paid a terrible price. A
> compelling case with sympathetic plaintiffs to put
> in front of a jury. Jurys who feel badly for
> plaintiffs tend to dole out a lot of cash,
> particularly from large, faceless corporations.
> Expect the verdict to stand but the award to be
> reduced.


Oh I know the standard lawyers are to represent schtick and spiel and that is probably what makes me the most sick. There used to be a day and age when judges actually threw this kind of stupidity out or juries actually used the thinking part of any brain they had rather than using their emotions as a rational for thought.

Poor kids poor kids my you know what. What about the poor people who work for these two companies that pay the price in the long run? It is not as though these frivioulus lawsuits come out of some massive treasure chest they have with no impact or we as customers pick it up in higher prices.

If parents are not put in a position of being the responsible ones anymore and 17 year olds are not called to account for their behavior, then God help us all in this country.



Date: 10/29/06 06:25
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: ChS7-321

Scott Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> 12,500 volts isn't the running voltage of the
> train is it? Wouldn't is be something like 600
> volts?
>
> 12.5 K is usually the voltage the grid
> distribution system runs at.


12.5 kV AC is one of the voltages that the NEC catenary runs at. 600V is appropriate for a third-rail system. The lowest mainline catenary voltage that I've seen is 1500V (the DC part of France's electrified network).



Date: 10/29/06 07:24
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: Jaap

The Jury award is peanuts for railroad, if they had to comply they would need as minimum "no tresspassing" sign's every 300 feet at both sides of right of way, or a continuous fence , still with signs.
On Electric railways they would need a Danger high voltage xxxx volt at every catenary pole.
The lawsuit is probably a lot cheaper than putting up and maintaining all those sign's and fences.



Date: 10/29/06 07:44
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: SPSF

No signs? Even if there were signs every 20 feet - The lawyers would argue that the signs were not in spanish or some other moot point!! Isn't it just common knowledge that you have no business being on top of a Railcar? It's sad that they got fried - but why should they Hit the Lottery for their Foolishness?



Date: 10/29/06 08:04
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: Ashkicker

No one in this group myself included had the benefit of reviewing the factual evidence admitted to this case.

As railfans, we have superior knowledge of the electricution risks from catenary, but I would suggest that the vast majority of teenagers wouldn't have a clue as to the definition or function of a pantagraph.

I challenge anyone to post the location of a public water supply elevated standpipe that doesn't have the lower ladder rungs protected, yet the railroad presumably parked a cut of cars, with many having ladders readily available providing ready access to deadly voltage.

Railroad legal departments know their risks of liability.
All railroad lawyers certainly learned the risks of even liability to trespassers in Torts 101 review of turntables case
decisions.

Not having seen the evidence, I don't know if there were adequate warning signs along the line. I don't know if this was a high trespass area that should have been fenced off or had better policing? Perhaps the RR police were at the Amtrak depot at the time harrassing Railfans photographing trains!

I find little basis to understand the punitive damage award, but I do accept that this was Federal District Court, and Federal judges are normally quite astute in interpreting the applicable law.

I agree with PRR60 that the verdict may stand but will likely be reduced during post trial motions, appeals and negotiations.

And to Amtrak and NS. I am sure that their operating rules adequately warn their employees of the risks of electricution, but until they decide to completely protect their trackage with proper security fencing, perhaps they need to do a bit more work in the area of public education.



Date: 10/29/06 08:09
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: shtinkypuppie

Warning - DO NOT FLAIL LIMBS OR OTHER BODY PARTS AGAINST THIS WALL! Doing so could cause serious injury and/or death.
Warning - DO NOT RUN HEADLONG INTO THIS CORNER
Warning - DO NOT TRIP OVER THIS CURB
Warning - THIS SIGN HAS SHARP CORNERS



Date: 10/29/06 09:07
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: Freddie

In Germany, at all public crossings and anywhere else the lines are not fenced, there are yellow signs with the red "lightning bolt" icon on the catenary, reading "Vorsicht Hochspannung Lebensgefahr" (Caution, High Voltage, Danger to Life").



Date: 10/29/06 09:19
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: GNR1938

Ashkicker Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> No one in this group myself included had the
> benefit of reviewing the factual evidence admitted
> to this case.
>
> As railfans, we have superior knowledge of the
> electricution risks from catenary, but I would
> suggest that the vast majority of teenagers
> wouldn't have a clue as to the definition or
> function of a pantagraph.
>
> I challenge anyone to post the location of a
> public water supply elevated standpipe that
> doesn't have the lower ladder rungs protected, yet
> the railroad presumably parked a cut of cars, with
> many having ladders readily available providing
> ready access to deadly voltage.
>
> Railroad legal departments know their risks of
> liability.
> All railroad lawyers certainly learned the risks
> of even liability to trespassers in Torts 101
> review of turntables case
> decisions.
>
> Not having seen the evidence, I don't know if
> there were adequate warning signs along the line.
> I don't know if this was a high trespass area that
> should have been fenced off or had better
> policing? Perhaps the RR police were at the
> Amtrak depot at the time harrassing Railfans
> photographing trains!
>
> I find little basis to understand the punitive
> damage award, but I do accept that this was
> Federal District Court, and Federal judges are
> normally quite astute in interpreting the
> applicable law.
>
> I agree with PRR60 that the verdict may stand but
> will likely be reduced during post trial motions,
> appeals and negotiations.
>
> And to Amtrak and NS. I am sure that their
> operating rules adequately warn their employees of
> the risks of electricution, but until they decide
> to completely protect their trackage with proper
> security fencing, perhaps they need to do a bit
> more work in the area of public education.


Tell me, as a teenager did you have any idea that playing on the highway could get you killed? What about railroads? As a 6 year old I knew it because of plain old common sense. Something that could smash a penny to paper thickness could easily do that to me. Further, a no trespass sign at age 17 is a pretty clear indicator of trouble if ignored. If the rational of not enough signs is a basis for award, then the entire NE corridor that I have visited in CT is going to need a boatload of signs.



Date: 10/29/06 10:21
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: Ashkicker

Once again folks, a property owner owes a definitive duty of care to all parties who might venture onto their property. The requisite legal duty as applies to trespassers is very minimal.

Under judges oversight, the jury is informed of the factual merits of the case thru evidence presentation.

The respective lawyers suggest appropriate jury instructions and the judge approves the instructions in accordance with applicable law.

It is the conclusion of the jury that matters, not your opinion nor mine.

If there were legal errors in the conduct of the trial, or if the verdict is non sustainable on the prima facia merits of the case, the appeal process is the next step for remedy.



Date: 10/29/06 10:50
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: SPSF

Opinion or not. Most freeway onramps don't have any warnings about walking/playing/sleeping on the freeways. Or how about your neighborhood streets - there are not caution signs every 50ft warning you that cars are dangerous. How far is this foolishness going to go. Where is personal RESPONSIBILITY?



Date: 10/29/06 11:09
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: coaststarlight99

I was reading about this on Friday, I just cannot believe any jury could award trespassers 24.2 Million. If anything they should pay Amtrak/NS. This is literally as if I had broken into someones house and got bitten by their dog.



Date: 10/29/06 11:30
Re: $24.2 Million for Railroad Trespassers
Author: ts1457

GNR1938 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> .... If the rational of not enough signs
> is a basis for award, then the entire NE corridor
> that I have visited in CT is going to need a
> boatload of signs.

In how many languages?



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