Man Killed By Train Liable For Injuries From Flying Body Parts

Wrongful Death Case Takes Twist As Victim Liable For Personal Injuries Caused By His Flying Body Parts

In an unusual personal injury case arising from a train accident, the estate of man who was dismembered by a train is liable for the injuries to another person who was struck by a part of his body that had been knocked to bits by a speeding train.  The legal issues of this case are so bizare they seem more appropriate to a law school exam question than a court lawsuit. 

In an LA Times story written by Steve Schmader which appeared in the December 29, 2011 edition,  the writer stated that in 2008 Hiroyiki Joho, age 18, was running in the rain trying to catch a Metro train in Chicago.  He was struck by an Amtrak train traveling at more than 70 mile per hour as he was crossing the tracks.  A large portion of his body flew over 100 feet and struck  Gayanne Zokhrabov, 58.  She suffered a broken leg and wrist as well as injuries to her shoulder.  

The trial court in Chicago dismissed the case holding that Joho could not have foreseen that the negligent act of stepping in front of a train and causing his own death by dismemberment would result in an injury to a third party.  The appellate court disagreed.  It ruled that “it was reasonably foreseeable” that the stepping into the path of the high speed train would cause Joho to explode and that parts of his body would then strike passengers on a nearby platform.  Zokhrabov’s lawyer, Leslie Rosen, said that it was a straight forward case–”If you do something as stupid as this guy did, you have to be responsible for what comes of it.”

Wow, harsh Leslie!  But, she may make a good legal point.  In law school one of the first cases you learn concerns a ship that becomes loose and floats down a waterway and strikes and damages a bridge.  The legal issue was whether  it was reasonably foreseeable that negligently tying down the ship could result in damage to a bridge a good distance away.  The court held it was foreseeable and a key principle of negligence law was laid down.  That principle has been upheld in this case although I imagine it’s a hollow victory.  Joho was 18 when he died and likely had nothing in his “estate” to compensate Zokhrabov for her injuries. 

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