This is a review of a slip and fall accident case. In this case a man was injured as he stepped off a train and his foot became lodged in between the train and the platform. The man eventually filed a lawsuit against the train’s operator alleging the gap between the train and the platform was excessive and represented negligence on the part of the operator.
The train’s operator responded by stating the gap’s width was within standard, and they weren’t liable for the man’s injuries.
Statement of Facts…
John Timoney was a rider on a train operated by Limited Transport Associates Inc. (LTA) which had just arrived at its station. As he was about to step off onto the station’s platform, he noticed an elderly woman moving slowly toward the door. Out of courtesy, Timoney stepped aside to permit the woman to pass in front of him.
Once the woman passed, Timoney stepped behind her to leave. As he did, he accidently stepped into a gap between the platform and the train which he had failed to notice. Timoney’s foot became lodged in the gap, and he was unable to remove it.
While Timoney was still stuck, the train door closed and the train left the station. In a furious attempt to dislodge his foot, Timoney fractured the tibia bone in his left foot. He was treated at the local hospital and released.
Sometime later he attempted to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company representing the train company. All attempts failed. He retained local counsel and filed suit.
Timoney’s slip and fall accident case alleged LTA was negligent in allowing there to exist a gap between the train and the platform sufficient to permit a person’s foot to become lodged in it.
His lawsuit included a demand for compensation for the following:
- Medical bills
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
LTA’s answer to Timoney’s allegations was that so long as the gap between the train car door and the platform wasn’t wider than 6 inches, LTA was not negligent.
LTA stated it was absolutely necessary for there to be a gap between the train car and the platform. Because of the inertia the train produced as it was moving back and forth while traveling along the track, it was necessary for there to be a gap of not less than 5, nor more than 6 inches between the train and the platform.
Without that amount of clearance, the train cars would run into the platform causing serious damage to the cars with a high probability of serious bodily injuries to the train’s occupants.
LTA referred the court to Timoney’s failure to provide any evidence contradicting LTA’s assertion that the gap between the train and the platform was necessary to promote the safety and well-being of its passengers. LTA provided verified publications and studies which supported its position that the gap was an absolute requirement to stop the cars from crashing into the concrete platforms.
LTA further pointed out Timoney had not provided specific measurements of the gap when presenting his slip and fall accident case. LTA continued to offer proof through written and verified publications as well as expert in-court testimony that the gap was necessary and reasonable for public safety.
Timoney retorted LTA can’t be allowed to hide behind the premise that the gap was necessary for the safety of LTA’s passengers and others waiting on the platform.
Timoney stated that the 6 inch gap LTA alleged was necessary for safe operation may have been in existence at some other points along the train’s route, but at the place in which Timoney was injured the gap must have been wider than 6 inches. As a result Timoney stated LTA was untruthful and should be found liable for his injuries.
As proof the gap was wider than LTA stated, Timoney attempted to enter into evidence the measurements of his left foot. He attempted to show the court the widest part of his foot was 7 inches. Because that foot became lodged in between the train and the platform, Timoney alleged, the gap had to be at least 7 inches wide.
LTA objected, stating evidence of the width of Timoney’s foot was at best speculative, and at worst an insult to the court itself. LTA stated the measurement of Timoney’s foot could have easily changed from day to day, and even from hour to hour.
LTA brought to the court’s attention the lawsuit wasn’t filed until 18 months after Timoney’s injury. During that time, Timoney could have put on weight or in other ways could have caused his foot’s width to expand.
The Court agreed with LTA and disallowed the evidence. The Court in this slip and fall accident case indicated the evidence submitted by Timoney about the size of his left foot was speculative. The Court continued by stating the measurements were taken by Timoney himself, and as a result could not be properly verified. The measurements were not certified or sworn to in any affidavits.
In addition, the photographs Timoney took of his foot and of the gap at the train platform were inadmissible as hearsay, and therefore useless in determining this slip and fall accident case.
LTA added the gap between the train and the platform had existed for at least 60 years. Anyone who ever rode the train knew there was a gap between the platform and the car and as a result used care in avoiding that gap. LTA stated in its arguments to the court that the gap was therefore a “Foreseeable Harm” and that Timoney was aware of that harm.
LTA offered documentary evidence through the hearsay exception of its business records. Part of those records reflected Timoney had ridden the train on a weekly basis for the last 4 years. LTA was sure of that because for the last 4 years, Timoney purchased monthly tickets on the train at a discounted price.
Therefore Timoney could not claim he did not ride the train frequently, and, because he rode the train so frequently, he had to have successfully avoided the gap numerous times, all without incident or complaint.
After hearing the admitted evidence in the trial and the closing arguments of Timoney’s and LTA’s attorneys, the Court ruled Timoney had wholly failed to prove his slip and fall accident case by a “Preponderance of the Evidence”.
The Court ruled LTA was not negligent and as a result did not breach its duty of care to its passengers, and specifically, to Timoney. The Court found for the Defendant LTA and against the Plaintiff Timoney.
- To be successful in a slip and fall accident case a Plaintiff must be able to present admissible evidence into the court record. Evidence, if it is to be used effectively in a personal injury case, must be in a form which is admissible in court. If it isn’t, no matter how important the Plaintiff thinks the evidence may be, it will prove to be useless.
- There are some risks which are foreseeable. Those are usually risks which exist out of necessity. The gap between the train and the platform in this slip and fall accident case illustrates an excellent example.
Too often when people are injured they fail to recognize the legal concept of “Foreseeable Harm”. These are dangers which exist in the real world which are inevitable. The amount of foreseeable harm though will often be an issue which must be determined by the court.
One person may believe the harm is foreseeable and reasonable, whereas the person injured may feel the harm wasn’t foreseeable, and as a result the person who created the harm should be liable for the injuries suffered by the person who becomes a victim to that harm.
*This case example is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.
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