Categorized | Opinion

Is It Really Outrageous?

By David PeelDavid Peel

As an injury lawyer, I read legal cases involving all kinds of claims regularly.  Occasionally, I will see a case I have studied listed as “outrageous lawsuit” on some website that omits a lot of important facts.  This supposedly “outrageous” case is just one example:
Teens win a 24.2 million dollar lawsuit for being injured while trespassing on someone else’s property! While out skateboarding, two 17-year-olds illegally entered train company property, and climbed on top of a boxcar to see the city. 12,500 volts of electricity arced into one boy, burning 75 percent of his body. Then the other boy was burned when trying to help his friend.
This sounds outrageous at first. But allow me add some of those troublesome things called “facts.” The train companies had many training films to educate their employees of just how unbelievably dangerous these “catenary” wires were.
A Congressional report from the 1970’s was used to further explain the problem, which the railroad had not taken any steps to improve in the many years since: “Catenaries are the overhead wiring systems used to carry energy to electric locomotives. Catenary accidents may or may not involve trains. All of the catenary accidents in the sample data involved juveniles and all resulted in serious injury or death. Minor catenary accidents are rare because all of them result in severe electric shock, and there is a strong probability that a fall from the top of a boxcar will follow.
While there may be a general awareness of danger associated with catenary systems as with power lines, few people outside the railroad industry are aware that the electrical potential is so great that shocks can result without actual contacting of the wire.”
Employees were shown films with mannequins exploding into flames and equipment that the voltage had destroyed. They had near-constant training and reminders about the powerful overhead lines and were not to climb on cars near the wires. Vendors on the property had to pass a test to enter the area because of the danger. There was no way a passerby or a curious teen would know that they were high voltage lines.  There were no signs saying so. No warnings.  At most, a teen might think he could slip off a ladder or top of a parked boxcar, not burst into flames.
Evidence of pervasive graffiti in the area, reports of other trespassers, the presence of numerous schools in the vicinity, the urban setting suggesting that pedestrian traffic was well known, and Amtrak’s long time awareness that teenage boys are inclined to climb parked boxcars were all factors presented to the jury.
The plaintiffs did establish by clear evidence that Amtrak had every reason to know trespassers were regularly on its tracks and that teenage boys were inclined to climb to the top of parked boxcars.
Whether you ultimately agree with the result or not, understanding that the train companies basically park iron ladders that reach to deadly arcing wires without even a sign up, but careful to train their own staff to avoid them, in an area with teens around was found to be wanton conduct.
Peel seeks justice for those injured in car accidents, work place incidents, medical malpractice, and nursing homes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.
— What do you think? Send Letters to the Editor to thomas.sellers@journalinc.com.

  • thegreenchipmunk

    Doesn’t matter, 24.2 million is absolutely ridiculous. The rest of the world continues to laugh at lawsuits in America

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