Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Colon v. Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 22, 2018

MILTON OMAR COLON and ARLENE DAVIS, Plaintiffs,
v.
METRO-NORTH COMMUTER RAILROAD COMPANY, and METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, Defendants. METRO-NORTH COMMUTER RAILROAD COMPANY and METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, Third-Party Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED ILLUMINATING COMPANY, Third-Party Defendant.

          RULING DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs move for a new trial pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59. I will deny their motion for the reasons set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         On March 17, 2011, emergency responders were called to the scene of a catenary tower along the railroad tracks in New Haven, Connecticut. About 40 feet above them was a man- plaintiff Omar Colon-hanging upside down from the tower in a horribly helpless predicament. Colon was dangling by just one leg from one of the tower's cross bars, with his body swinging into uncontrollable and agonizingly painful contact with a high-voltage electric line next to him. The emergency responders miraculously rescued Colon that day but he suffered catastrophic burn injuries leading to months of hospitalization, dozens of surgeries, and the loss of both his legs.

         Colon and his wife Arlene Davis ended up filing this federal diversity lawsuit for negligence against defendant Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company (“Metro-North”) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“MTA”). Colon did not dispute at trial that he was a trespasser on railroad property. Nor did he dispute that he knew in general of the dangers of railroad tracks and the dangers if he were to touch any of the electric wires that run above the tracks. Colon's claim depended instead on his proving that he was injured because of a hidden danger on the railroad property. His claim was that he was injured because the railroad did not warn him about a hidden danger from invisible static electricity that persists in the air near high-voltage wires.

         According to Colon, here is what happened that day. He wandered into some wetlands next to the railroad tracks and saw a herd of deer. To get a better view of the deer he decided to climb up the readily climbable lattice-work bars of the catenary tower. There were no legible warning signs at the base of the tower. As he approached the upper reaches of the tower and within just a few feet of high-voltage wires that ran immediately above and below him, Colon allegedly felt a strange sensation on his skin consistent with invisible static electricity. This somehow caused him to lose his footing and to fall upside down into the position where emergency responders would find and rescue him. Defendants disputed Colon's account at trial, challenging Colon's memory of what happened and his claim that it was static electricity that caused him to lose his balance and fall.

         After a two-week trial in August 2017, the jury found against plaintiffs. I told the jury it must consider whether the railroad could be liable under a so-called “constant intrusion” theory of liability in accordance with Section 335 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts and the Connecticut Supreme Court's decision in Maffucci v. Royal Park Ltd. P'ship, 243 Conn. 552, 559-60 (1998). As I have discussed at length in a prior ruling, this theory of liability holds that a property owner must reasonably warn even a trespasser like Colon of any serious hidden dangers on the property if the property owner was aware of prior constant trespasses or intrusion on a limited area of the property where the hidden danger exists. See Colon v. Metro-N. Commuter R.R. Co., 242 F.Supp.3d. 65, 72-73 (D. Conn. 2017).[1]

         I told the jury that plaintiffs must prove the following five elements to sustain their claim for “constant intrusion” liability:

(1) Possessor of the Property. That on March 17, 2011, Metro-North was a possessor of the property where Mr. Colon was injured (i.e., it owned, managed, or otherwise controlled the property);
(2) Injury Caused by a Serious Hidden Danger. That on March 17, 2011, Mr. Colon suffered injuries that were caused by an artificial condition on the property (a) that Metro-North created or maintained or maintained access to; (b) that Metro-North knew was likely to cause death or serious bodily harm if encountered by a trespasser; and (c) that presented a hidden danger that Metro-North had reason to believe such trespassers would not realize or discover;
(3) Knowledge of Prior Constant Intrusion into Limited Area. That on March 17, 2011, Metro-North knew, or from facts within its knowledge should have known, that trespassers had constantly intruded upon the limited area of the property that was in dangerous proximity to where the hidden danger existed that caused Mr. Colon's injuries;
(4) Failure to Reasonably Warn. That Metro-North failed to use reasonable care to warn Mr. Colon of the hidden danger and the risk involved; and
(5) Injury Caused Because of Failure to Reasonably Warn. That Metro-North's failure to use reasonable care to warn ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.