SW Legal studies in Business

Train Passing Through Passenger Station Not Open and Obvious Danger to Pedestrians
Description

District court held that suit brought on behalf of a woman killed at a train station when she crossed the tracks and was hit by a passing train would not be dismissed because the train was an open and obvious danger. The woman was on a crosswalk in a crowded station and the passing train was traveling at a high rate of speed.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Wrongful Death, Negligence, Open and Obvious Danger, Train, Government Immunity

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Chiriboga was killed when hit by a train as she walked across the tracks on the pedestrian walkway, to go from one train platform to another platform. She was hit by an Amtrak train that was passing through the station at 80 mph but was not going to stop. It sounded a bell, but not a horn. Chiribogaís estate sued Amtrak and the operators of the tracks and station for negligence and willful and wanton conduct that were the cause of death. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted because a train coming down a track is an open and obvious danger that Chiriboga should have seen.

Decision

Motion to dismiss by track operator granted; motion to dismiss by Amtrack denied. For there to be negligence, there must exist a duty, be a breach of that duty, and injury to the plaintiff, and proximate causation of the injury by the defendantís breach. The Amtrak train approaching the commuter rail station was not an open and obvious danger that automatically absolved Amtrak from its duty to provide Chiriboga with a warning that its train was approaching the station, especially since it was approaching and passing through the station at a high rate of speed. It would cover 100 yards in less than three seconds. The operator of the train station could not be sued because it is a public entity not liable for any injury caused by a failure to properly control traffic or warn pedestrians of trains. Illinois law specifically holds public entities immune from liability with respect to train accidents.

Citation Chiriboga v. National Railroad Passenger Corp., ---F.Supp.2d--- (2009 WL 2916837, N.D. Ill., 2009)

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