This is incredible. These two kids were tresspassing on private property when this unfortunate accident happened! They shouldn't be made rich from it, they should have been fined!
Jury awards $24 million to Pa. men burnt after climbing rail car
Posted Friday, October 27, 2006 at 10:49 am
PHILADELPHIA - A federal jury awarded $24.2 million to two men who were severely burned by electrical wires when they trespassed onto railroad property and climbed atop a rail car.
Jeffrey Klein and Brett Birdwell, who were 17 at the time of the accident, sued Amtrak and Norfolk Southern Corp. after being burned by a 12,500-volt electrical wire in Lancaster in August 2002. In their lawsuit, they argued that the companies should have placed warning signs alerting people to the wires, which power locomotives.
After an 11-day trial before U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel, the jury handed up its verdict Tuesday, finding the companies negligent.
Klein, who was burnt over 75 percent of his body, was awarded more than $11 million in compensatory damages; Birdwell, who was burned over 18 percent of his body, was awarded more than $588,000. The jury also awarded a total of $12.5 million in punitive damages, $8.75 million against Amtrak and $3.75 million against Norfolk Southern.
A defense attorney, Paul F.X. Gallagher, had urged the jury to exonerate the companies, saying that the teens were old enough to recognize the danger of the wires. The companies can appeal the jury verdict and the awards.
An attorney for the plaintiffs said the companies had to bear some responsibility.
"The boys were trespassing, but the law doesn't give blanket immunity to the landowner," attorney Joseph Roda said. "Both Amtrak and Norfolk Southern knew a lethal danger existed but failed to post any warning signs."
Klein and Birdwell, each now 22, lived in Stroudsburg at the time of the accident, but had been visiting Klein's mother in Lancaster. They were skateboarding when they decided they wanted to see the view from the top of the boxcar, according to their lawsuit.
Klein was shocked by the catenary wire, which hung 6 feet above the car, even though he did not touch it; Birdwell was burned while he tried to help his friend.
Klein suffered second- and third-degree burns across much of his body, including his left ear, neck, shoulders, arms, hand, back and groin. He spent several months recovering at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia and now has limited use of his left hand.
Birdwell, who is now serving with the Army in Afghanistan, spent a year recovering from his burns.