United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW AS
TO LIABILITY UNDER THE KNOWN TRESPASSER AND CHILD TRESPASSER
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Omar Colon suffered severe electrocution injuries after he
trespassed on railroad property and climbed up high on a
catenary pole next to high voltage wires running above the
railroad tracks near New Haven, Connecticut. He and his
spouse, Arlene Davis, filed a personal injury lawsuit against
defendants Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company
(“Metro-North”) and the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority (“MTA”) claiming that
they should be liable for Colon's injuries.
several years of pre-trial discovery and motions, the case
went to jury trial in August 2017. The case was predicated on
plaintiff's status as a trespasser and whether defendants
should be liable to him for the injuries he suffered despite
the fact that he was a trespasser on railroad property. At
the close of plaintiffs' evidence, defendants moved
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a) for judgment as a matter of
law. Doc. #471. Although I permitted the case to proceed to
the jury with respect to one of plaintiff's theories of
liability (referred to here as the “constant
trespass” rule), I declined to instruct the jury on two
alternative theories of liability (referred to here as the
“known trespasser” and “child
trespasser” rules). The jury subsequently rendered a
verdict for defendants on the constant trespass rule,
concluding that plaintiffs had failed to prove three out of
the five necessary elements to sustain their claim. Doc.
ruling explains the basis for my declining to instruct the
jury under the known trespasser and child trespasser rules. I
conclude that the evidence was insufficient for plaintiff to
proceed on the known trespasser rule, because there was no
evidence that defendants knew at the time of the incident
that Colon or any other trespasser was in dangerous proximity
to high voltage wires on their property. I further conclude
that the evidence was insufficient for plaintiff to proceed
on the child trespasser rule for multiple reasons: (1)
because Colon was not a child; (2) because the child
trespasser rule does not apply to adults like Colon with
diminished mental capacity; and (3) because plaintiffs did
not prove that defendants knew or had reason to know that
children (or adults with diminished mental capacities) would
climb the railroad's catenary poles as Colon did.
factual background of this case has been described in detail
in the Court's ruling on motions for summary judgment.
See Colon v. Metro-N. Commuter R.R. Co., 242
F.Supp.3d 65, 69-71 (D. Conn. 2017). Insofar as relevant now,
my summary judgment ruling outlined three potential theories
of negligence liability as provided for in the Restatement
(Second) of Torts.
first and most significant theory was the constant trespasser
rule under § 335 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts.
This rule provides that a possessor of property may be liable
to a trespasser for an injury that a trespasser sustains on
the property if the possessor of property was aware of prior
constant intrusion by trespassers upon the limited area of
the land where the danger existed that injured the
trespassing plaintiff. I concluded for summary judgment
purposes that there was enough evidence on this theory to
warrant a trial. Id. at 73-75. In view that the
admissible evidence would likely be the same and that the
issue would be subject to reconsideration on the basis of
evidence to be presented at trial, I also allowed in my
summary judgment ruling for plaintiffs to proceed under the
known trespasser rule of § 337 of the Restatement
(Second) of Torts and the child trespasser rule of § 339
of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. Id. at 75-77.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 50, a motion for judgment as a matter of law
will be granted only if “a reasonable jury would not
have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the
party” at trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a)(1). A party seeking
judgment on this basis bears a “heavy burden, ”
and will succeed only if “the evidence is such that,
without weighing the credibility of the witnesses or
otherwise considering the weight of the evidence, there can
be but one conclusion as to the verdict that reasonable
[persons] could have reached.” Matusick v. Erie
Cnty. Water Auth., 757 F.3d 31, 52 (2d Cir. 2014). I
must view the evidence “in the light most favorable to
the party against whom the motion was made and ... give that
party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that the jury
might have drawn in his favor from the evidence.”
Harris v. O'Hare, 770 F.3d 224, 231 (2d Cir.
2014). Moreover, notwithstanding a movant's reliance on
trial evidence that favored the movant's version of
events, a court considering a Rule 50 motion “must
disregard all evidence favorable to the moving party that the
jury is not required to believe.” ING Glob. v.
United Parcel Serv. Oasis Supply Corp., 757 F.3d 92, 97
(2d Cir. 2014).
issues discussed here involve the application of Connecticut
law. As a federal court, my role is to apply Connecticut law
as I believe that the Connecticut Supreme Court would do and
giving proper regard to relevant rulings of lower Connecticut
courts as well as analogous rulings from other jurisdictions.
See, e.g., In re Thelen, LLP, 736 F.3d 213, 219 (2d
light of these standards, I conclude as a matter of law and
in light of the evidence presented by plaintiffs at trial
that there was no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for
the jury to have been instructed on and to consider whether
defendants should have been liable under the known trespasser
or child trespasser rules. I will address both rules in turn.
Known Trespasser Rule
337 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts is titled:
“Artificial Conditions Highly Dangerous to Known
Trespassers.” It provides:
A possessor of land who maintains on the land an artificial
condition which involves a risk of death or serious bodily
harm to persons coming in contact with it, is subject to
liability for bodily harm caused to trespassers by his
failure to exercise reasonable care to warn them of the
condition if (a) the possessor knows or has reason to know of
their presence in dangerous proximity to the condition, and
(b) the condition is of such a ...