Appeals Court upholds $250K verdict vs Metra for man who broke hip after ticket agent bumped him

By David Hutton | Jan 11, 2018


By Neutronv6 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

CHICAGO — The Illinois First District Appellate Court has upheld a $250,000 verdict for a man who claimed he broke his hip after he was knocked over by a Metra ticket agent.

Justice Robert E. Gordon authored the decision, with justices Margaret McBride and David Ellis concurring.

The panel ruled a Cook County judge didn’t err when ruling in favor of Robert Hoffman, a man who was injured when a ticket agent backed into him while he was on a station platform in suburban Fox Lake.

According to court records, Hoffman sued Metra after he alleged he was injured in the incident. The ticket agent stepped backward, bumping into him. He fell, breaking his hip.

In a jury trial, the court ruled in favor of Hoffman and assessed damages of $500,000. That amount was lowered after the jury found Hoffman 50 percent responsible and reduced his total recoverable damages to $250,000.

Metra appealed the ruling, seeking a new trial by claiming the circuit court erred when it allowed evidence of Metra’s internal safety rules and regulations. It also asked the judge to reduce the amount the jury awarded Hoffman for future medical expenses. 

“In support of its argument that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing evidence of [the] defendant's internal safety rules, [the] defendant cites several cases, but these cases do not stand for the proposition cited,” Gordon wrote.

Moreover, Gordon noted that if the appeals court were to determine the circuit court erred by allowing the safety rule, it would also have to find that its admission affected the outcome of the trial before it could reverse the lower court’s decision.

Gordon also noted that the panel didn’t find Metra’s arguments for a reduction of the damages persuasive.

“We cannot find that the trial court abused its discretion by denying [the] defendant’s motion for a remittitur for the amount that the jury awarded [the] plaintiff for future medical expenses,” Gordon concluded.

The court affirmed the jury’s verdict and award.

Hoffman was represented by the firm of Parente & Norem PC, of Chicago.

Metra was represented by its corporation counsel.

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Illinois First District Appellate Court Metra Rail

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