August 22, 2017

On August 22, 2017, Ryan Ryan Deluca LLP partners Bob Hickey and Beck Fineman teamed up to obtain a full defense verdict in the matter of Omar Colon and Arlene Davis vs. Metro-North Commuter Railroad and Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The plaintiffs sued Metro-North and the MTA after Mr. Colon was catastrophically injured on March 17, 2011.  Mr. Colon, a trespasser, climbed a catenary tower next to the railroad’s right-of-way and was electrocuted by high voltage wires supplying electricity to the trains.  Mr. Colon was rescued by the West Haven Fire Department and members of Metro-North’s Power Department.  He suffered burns over most of his body and both legs were amputated above the knees.  He also suffered brain damage as the result of the electrocution.

Mr. Colon alleged that Metro-North should be held liable because the railroad was on notice of others trespassing on the right-of-way and the catenary towers.  He submitted evidence of graffiti on surrounding towers and claimed that such graffiti, as well as other evidence of people having been in the area where the tower was located, put Metro-North on notice of the potential for trespassers being injured.  He also claimed that his injury was precipitated by a hidden danger, namely, static electricity surrounding the wires, which startled Mr. Colon, knocking him off balance and onto the high voltage wires that ultimately caused his injuries.  The wires themselves were not hidden, but Mr. Colon argued that the general public would not be expected to know that one could encounter static electricity without actually coming into contact with the wires. 

The plaintiffs put on extensive evidence that Mr. Colon was significantly intellectually impaired prior to the accident.  They called family members to establish that he had suffered from meningitis at 18 days old, which had caused developmental delays.  Although Mr. Colon was 26 years old at the time of the accident, one expert opined that his brain had matured only to the functional age of a 14-year-old.

Metro-North vigorously disputed that trespassers were routinely on the railroad property or that it was negligent in any manner.  The case was tried over the course of two weeks in the United States District Court in New Haven.  Mr. Colon presented over 20 witnesses in total, including 7 expert witnesses.  Plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to award between 80 and 90 million dollars in his closing argument.

The jury deliberated for the better part of a full day before rendering a full defense verdict for Metro-North and the MTA.  The jury found that the plaintiffs had failed to prove that Metro-North or the MTA had been negligent or that anything Metro-North or the MTA had done caused Mr. Colon’s injuries.