New York Jury Awards $2.3 Million to Drunk Man Who Fell into Path of Train

news005 Dustin Dibble, 25, admits that he was drinking for four hours before he went to the 14th Street station and then fell into the path of a train, which cut off his right leg. However, a jury still found NYC Transit was to blame and awarded him $2.3 million.

At a .18 blood-alcohol level, Dibble had twice the legal limit for alcohol in his blood for drivers. Moreover, he could remember nothing from the accident at 1:50 am.

The liability was based on the obligation of the subway to stop when it spots an object on the tracks. It is an interesting variation of the last clear chance concept in torts. The doctrine applies in contributory negligence jurisdictions rather than a comparative negligence jurisdiction. In the latter, such arguments simply go into the mix of the relative negligence of the plaintiffs and defendant. Regardless of Dibble’s obvious negligence, the train company could have avoided the accident.

Key to the verdict was the admission of train operator Michael Moor that he saw what he “thought was garbage on the track” and continued into the station. When he saw the object move, he hit the emergency brake.

Because Moore suffered a stroke before trial, they used his deposition where he admitted that he did not always stop because “there’s garbage all over the place” in the New York system.

The full verdict was for $3.5 million, but it was reduced because the jury found Dibble 35 percent responsible.

The case brings to mind the famous line from Robinson v. Pioche, Bayerque & Co., 5 Cal. 460 (1855) where the court held that a drunk who fell into a manhole could recover under the view that “A drunken man is as much entitled to a safe street, as a sober one, and much more in need of it.”

For the full story, click here.

10 thoughts on “New York Jury Awards $2.3 Million to Drunk Man Who Fell into Path of Train”

  1. gnome:

    Right you are in the last four remaining pure contrib states* (and DC)this verdict would be nearly impossible.

    *Maryland, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia. Yeah Virginia’s as good as a state that worships blue crustaceans, has red elephants symbolizing its major institution of higher learning,and finally a state that glorifies blackened feet. Yeah, we’re the only one that’s color blind!!

  2. The answer to the drunk guy post:

    The phone company pays.

    The argument? That the phone company ought to have known that if a car was hit by a train it might fly through the air and land on the phone booth, so the phone company should have built the phone booth to withstand such an incident.

    I tell this story because you never know what reasoning jurors will buy when they just feel badly for someone and want to make it better.

  3. Many years ago, when I was an insurance claims adjustor, I was told the nightmarish (to claims adjustors!) story of the drunk guy.

    The story begins when the guy, not yet drunk, is told by an auto mechanic that the brakes in his car are so damaged that it is not safe for him to drive the car. The guy insists that he wants to take the car to his own mechanic and drives the car away from the garage.

    We next see our guy, now drunk, speeding away from a bar in his not yet repaired vehicle.

    The police see the speeding car being driven erratically and give chase. The chase, at high speed, goes on for some time.

    Finally drunk guy sees his chance to get away. There is a railroad crossing and the gates are just beginning to go down. If he drives around the gates, the cops will be stopped and he can get away. He drives around the gates as the train approaches.

    There is a tie.

    The car goes flying into the air and lands on a phone booth which has a person in it. Drunk guy is uninjured but phone booth guy loses both legs.

    Drunk guy is uninsured, unemployed, and has no assets. He is effectively judgement proof. Who pays for phone booth guy’s injuries?

  4. So is he now going to sue the bar that served him and the company that made the beer?

    When will people ever take responsibility for their own stupidity?

  5. From the story, the state appears to apply comparative negligence, not contributory. The award was reduced 35% because of P’s negligence. In contributory states (Mespo, Virginia?) any negligence by P defeats all recovery, even if D was 90, 95 or 99 % negligent.

    The D here is reviewing the case so an appeal is possible.

  6. What happened to contributory negligence in NY? What has happened to our jury system and society? This screams for appeal. Unless he was forced to ingest copious amounts of alcohol, he’s entitled to nothing, in my opinion. And I’m one of those bleeding heart liberals your plumber warned you about.

  7. How to Become a Multi-Millionaire…The 21st Century Version

    Get drunk or drugged or whatever

    Step on the property of any government or deep pockets businesses; trespass if necessary/required

    Lose or discard all aspects of self-responsibility

    Get hurt on purpose or through your own negligence

    Win a Multi-million dollar award.

    Case closed-Game over

    Taxpayer eventually pays for others’ negligence and society loses revenue for schools, other vital services while the negligent fools prevail.

  8. We need more information before we can assess the fairness of this result. Was the city negligent in allowing garbage to remain all over the place; i.e., would it be reasonable to require it to clean up the garbage more frequently? If the city were not negligent in allowing garbage all to be all over the place, then would the city be negligent if it failed to require train operators nevertheless to stop everytime they spotted garbage on the tracks?

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