By David Peel
In 2008, 18-year-old Hiroyuki Joho, was crossing the tracks from the eastside passenger platform for the commuter trains, to the westside platform.
An Amtrak train traveling at 73 miles an hour sounded a whistle which triggered automatic flashing headlamps.
Witnesses saw the train hit Joho. A large part of his shattered body was propelled about 100 feet onto the platform where it struck 58-year-old Gayane Zokhrabov.
The impact was violent. She sustained a shoulder injury, a broken leg, and a wrist fracture.
To recover anything, she had to make a claim against whoever was negligent. So Zokhrabov sued Joho’s estate (since he was killed) seeking damages on the ground that his negligence caused her injuries. Initially, the estate won, but the Illinois appeals court thoughtfully responded.
It noted that the law generally assumes that persons who encounter obvious, inherently dangerous conditions like an oncoming train will take care to avoid the danger.
Joho failed to act with due regard for his own safety and self-preservation.
The record indicates he failed to exercise reasonable care for his own safety when he failed to look down the train tracks before attempting to cross the tracks in front of an approaching train.
The question we must answer is whether Joho owed a duty of care to Zokhrabov as he approached and entered the active Edgebrook station and she stood down the tracks in the waiting area designated for intended passengers?
Ordinarily, a person engaging in conduct that creates risks to others has a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing them physical harm.
A justification for imposing liability for negligence is to give actors appropriate incentives to engage in safe conduct.
The actor’s adoption of appropriate precautions improves social welfare. Here, the path of the train was fixed, the pedestrian crosswalk was marked, the train ran within the established speed limit, its speed, weight, and force grossly exceeded any pedestrian’s, and commuters were congregating to the side of the train tracks for the next scheduled public departure. Joho needed only to pause, look down the tracks, and then time his crossing accordingly.
The court concluded that it was reasonably foreseeable that the onrushing Amtrak train would strike, kill, and fling his body down the tracks and onto the passenger platform where Zokhrabov was waiting for the next scheduled departure. She won.
Peel seeks justice for those injured in truck, motorcycle, and car crashes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.