A Woman Falls in a Busy Train Station – Liability or No liability?
In law school, I had a professor with an unusual approach to teaching the subject of torts (the area of law concerned with personal injuries such as car accidents and slip and falls). Instead of focusing on statutes, cases, or legal analysis, he instead urged us to focus exclusively on the facts in order to learn to predict whether a case would result in “liability” (the defendant was responsible for the injury) or “no liability” (the defendant was not responsible for the injury). In that spirit, let’s give this one a try.
So here’s the fact pattern from a recent Court of Appeals case (Alice B. Churchman v. Bay Area Rapid Transit (Case No. A151698)). A woman purchases a train ticket and goes to the train station. Once there, she is confused and disoriented by the sound of train doors opening and closing, the overhead announcements, and the rush of passengers around her. As a result, she loses her balance and falls. She then sues the train station for her injuries. Liability or no liability?
If you picked “no liability” then you are correct! Yes, there is a formal legal reason for this (if a passenger injures herself when encountering minor commonplace hazards that one expects in a station or terminal, the station or terminal is not responsible as a matter of law), but as my professor suggested, instinct and common sense would suggest that a train station usually does not have an obligation to protect a customer from the expected obstacles and circumstances associated with a busy train station.
In today’s litigious society, it is easy to think that any and every injury is someone else’s fault and will be compensated. But the reality is that many injuries, though certainly not all of them, can simply be chalked up to the rigors of every day life – such as being jostled by other passengers when walking through a busy train station (or airport or sidewalk, for that matter). So when you are injured, it is critical to obtain competent and experienced legal counsel that can evaluate your case and realistically advise you whether there is a lawsuit worth pursuing, rather than wasting years of your life to pursue a lawsuit with no hope of success.
TLDR: Injuries, even serious injuries, are a part of the risks of everyday life and sometimes no one may be legally responsible for them.