Recently, a 19-month-old girl was struck and killed by a CTA bus. Early reports show that the child may have darted out in front of the bus. This (may or may not) absolve the CTA from responsibility for this tragic accident.
While I sit here with my heart going out to the family of that small child, I could not help but to reflect on the many cases I’ve handled against the CTA over the years. Most of those cases settled, but I recall at least one that did not, a case stands out in my mind – Tony T. v CTA.
I represented Tony T. Tony got on a CTA bus one day a few years back, a healthy man, with a healthy right foot. The bus driver was driving too fast for conditions. The bus driver for the CTA went over a speed bump and sent Tony, who happened to be standing, into the air. When Tony came back down on his right foot, his heel shattered. He was taken via ambulance by the paramedics and diagnosed with a right comminuted calcaneus fracture. Tony’s injuries were serious and permanent. The CTA denied any wrong doing. I took the case. I tried the case. Tony won and won big.
During the trial of this matter, I stated that this case was ironically about Credibility, Trust and Accountability – CTA. In Tony’s case, I argued that the CTA’s defense lacked Credibility. CTA bus drivers are equipped with courtesy cards. If someone on the bus is hurt, under CTA’s own rules, the bus driver is expected to pass out courtesy cards to the other passengers on the bus. These courtesy cards give witnesses the chance to write down what happened. In Tony’s case, the bus driver did not pass out a single card. Instead, the bus driver called his supervisor to the scene who was highly skilled in doing things to cover up incriminating evidence. Interestingly, the supervisor didn’t put a darn thing in his investigation report regarding speed. How convenient.
I argued Tony’s case was about Trust. I explained to the jury that common carriers (like the CTA) owe its passengers the duty to use the HIGHEST degree of care consistent with the type of vehicle used in the practical operation of its business, in this case, a bus. I explained to them that in determining the liability issues of a common carrier case, we are in essence determining how responsible we will make the professional transportation companies – the airline companies who use our airways, the railroad companies who use our rails, and in this case, bus companies who use our roadways. The law recognizes that when ordinary citizens such as Tony pay his fare to use a common carrier, such as the CTA, he gives up control of his safety. He Trusts that he is going to get from point A to point B w/out injury.
It is a sobering thought to realize how dependent each of us is, every day, on our common carriers. When we get on a CTA bus, whether in our own neighborhoods or in downtown Chicago, we are at the complete mercy of the professional drivers who transport us. We Trust them to operate their vehicles in accordance with the highest degree of care, like the law says they must. When we get on a CTA bus, we are completely at the mercy of the driver. We Trust that they know the conditions of the streets on the routes which they drive and drive accordingly. We Trust that they know the condition of their buses and drive accordingly. Tony’s case illustrated in a dramatic and graphic way just how dependent each of us is on the conduct of our common carriers. In this case, this Trust was broken.
Lastly, I discussed Accountability. I won’t discuss in detail Tony’s injuries but I asked the ladies and gentlemen of the jury to hold the CTA Accountable for its actions. I asked the jury to apply the law to the facts of the case and they did just that. The jury awarded my client several hundred thousand dollars. The jury made the CTA Accountable. The jury delivered to Tony the only thing he ever asked for – justice.
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