Most ridiculous lawsuits: Choate v Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Co.

12-year-old Dominic Choate decided to impress his friends and jump aboard a slow-moving freight train, despite their yelling at him to get away from the train. After two unsuccessful attempts, he made a third attempt that was not just unsuccessful, but disastrous:

he fell, the train wheel ran over his foot, severing it above the toes, and resulting in an amputation below the knee. This was, he alleged in a lawsuit, the railroad’s fault. Defendants asked for summary judgment, noting that not only was jumping on a train obviously dangerous, but Choate admitted he knew it was dangerous, but the trial court refused, and a jury held the railroad 60% liable for what it computed to be $6.5 million in damages. An intermediate appellate court affirmed, despite a WLF amicus brief. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed last week: a landowner owes no duty to trespassers, and while it owes a duty to children to warn them of latent harms that a child might not reasonably apprehend, it owes no duty with respect to obvious harms. [WLF]

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