October 29, 2020

Metra Train Worker Suffers Head Injury

Metra train case award for the plaintiff in Harry Balough v. Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation, etc. The plaintiff was in the rail yard preparing a train car for the evening rush hour when a trapdoor fell on his head.  He was diagnosed with ocular migraines and was not allowed to work as a train engineer.  An ocular migraine causes temporary vision loss or distortion in one eye, accompanied with a headache.  These migraines are caused by the sudden constriction of blood vessels, which causes the blood flow to the eye to be reduced.  Although the migraine lasts five minutes, and vision usually returns to normal, there may be five minutes of blurred or zero vision.

He sued Metra under the Federal Employers Liability Act.  The jury warded a $500,000 (the full amount to the man) in compensatory damages—but no money for pain, suffering or disability, but the jurors reduced the award to $300,000 because they found him to be partially negligent.

Judge Arnette Hubbard found that the jury’s answers to questions showed that the jury thought that Metra also violated U.S. Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA)—which triggers automatic negligence applicable when a train is “in use.”  Because there can’t be contributory negligence when there’s a LIA violation, Judge Hubbard restored the full $500,000 award.

Metra appealed for several reasons, including that the train was not actually “in use” and that the entire verdict should be set aside because the jury issued no damages for suffering, disability and pain.   The Appellate Court affirmed the Circuit Court’s ruling.  The Supreme Court clearly stated a train car is “in use” if it would continue to its next destination after passing inspection. Brady v. Terminal R.R. Ass’n of St. Louis , 303 U.S. 10.

Metra is considering appealing the case to the Illinois Supreme Court. The full case is available at, Harry Balough v. Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation, etc., No. 1-09-3053.

 

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