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Despite saying that a moving train presents an obvious danger, the Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a $3.9 million jury award against a trio of railroad companies according to the Madison Record.
In a unanimous decision delivered by Justice Charles Freeman, the court found that the circuit and appellate courts committed reversible error when they let the jury determine the defendants' duty to the plaintiff, who injured himself attempting to jump onto a moving train.
"This determination of defendants' duty is a question of law for the court," Freeman wrote, explaining that the defendants in this case were entitled to a judgment notwithstanding a verdict.
He added, "It has never been part of our law that a landowner may be liable to a trespasser who proceeds to wantonly expose himself to unmistakable danger in total disregard of a fully understood risk, simply for the thrill of the venture."
The Supreme Court ruling stems from a personal injury suit Dominic Choate brought in Cook County against Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Co., the Baltimore and Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroad Co. and CSX Transportation Inc.
When Choate was 12, he tried to impress his friends by jumping onto a moving train in Chicago Ridge and ended up having his foot run over by a train wheel. As a result of the 2003 incident, Choate had to have his leg amputated below the knee.
In order to get to the railroad tracks, Choate and his friends had to walk through a torn portion of a chain link fence and allegedly passed a no-trespassing sign that warned of danger. Choate sued the defendants, claiming that they failed to adequately fence the area and prevent minor children from gaining access to their trains or railroad tracks.
If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident and have suffered injuries as a result, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact an expert DuPage County injury attorney at your earliest opportunity.