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La Grange, Metra Sued in 2012 Fatal Train/Car Crash

The wrongful-death lawsuit alleges that the Gilbert Avenue crossing gates trapped the 57-year-old Chicago woman's car on the tracks, leading to the crash.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday seeking more than $150,000 accuses Metra and the Village of La Grange of liability in the Feb. 2012 train-versus-car crash that killed a 57-year-old Chicago woman, the The Doings La Grange reports.

According to the paper, the administrator to the estate of Maria G. Hinojosa is claiming negligence in the operation of the crossing gates and signals at Gilbert Avenue, where Hinojosa's car was struck by an eastbound Metra train. The suit claims that Hinojosa's car was trapped between the warning gates, the paper said.

Such a claim contradicts a finding by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office that the crash was an intentional suicide. The train's conductor, who the paper said is also blamed in the lawsuit, has said that Hinojosa made no attempt to move or escape the car.

Read the full story at the Doings La Grange website.

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Mouse February 08, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Except, as noted above, there are no gates to crash through once you are on the tracks. This is not a four quadrant gate crossing. This sounds entirely like a contingent fee personal injury lawyer fishing for an unwarranted settlement, part and parcel evidence of the need for tort reform.
Joseph R. Martan February 08, 2013 at 05:10 PM
Excellent points, Mouse. Personal injury cases are always on a contingent fee basis - so counsel has to get a recovery to make any money. What this illustrates is how desperate many attorneys are for business - they will take cases that not that many years ago no attorney would touch. This is a nuisance lawsuit, filed with the expectation that the defendant's insurers will offer a "cost of defense" settlement to make it go away. Wrongful death lawsuits are very expensive to defend. Another consideration is that a jury may choose to ignore the hard facts and still make an award out of sympathy. The defendants could try to get rid of the matter through a summary judgment motion on the basis that since the only witness to what happened - the decedent - isn't available to testify, whatever she saw or didn't see is pure guess, conjecture and speculation. Regretably, and I speak from experience here, VERY FEW judges have that kind of backbone - they'll use the "question of fact" and "entitled to her day in court" arguments as justification. I drive over that crossing every day - you have several minutes AFTER the gates go down before any train arrives. This type of lawsuit stinks and should be defended out of principle.
Teri D. Springer February 09, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Joseph, if the courts would make it clear to the plaintiffs that, if the judgement is against them they will be held responsible for all court costs as well as the legal fees of all defendants, this bs would stop rather quickly. The ambulance-chaser attorney is, indeed, hoping that the insurance companies of everyone involved will want to settle. Just once I'd like to see someone stand up to these snakes. If that woman wanted to live she could have driven off the tracks, even if it meant driving through the gates. If she felt she couldn't do that she could have gotten out of the car and escaped. She made no attempt to do either....what I want to know is 1) how do they figure the gates were "faulty"?? Last I knew they were SUPPOSED to come down when a train is coming. The warning lights come on first....so, if she got "trapped" (yes, I know, impossible since the gate would have been BEHIND her) it's because she ignored the warning lights, and 2) how is this the fault of the Village and/or conductor?? Maintenance of the tracks and gates is the responsibility of the train company that owns the tracks. And the conductor?? Seriously?? Yeah, he can stop that train on a dime.... You are right...what we need are some judges with the cajones to say "it was ruled a suicide...until you can prove it wasn't, you have no case....DISMISSED."
Joseph R. Martan February 11, 2013 at 05:31 PM
Teri: There are ways to deal with spurious lawsuits. Illinois has a Supreme Court Rule - Rule 137 - that provides for recovery of fees and costs if the lawsuit that was filed did not have a reasonable basis in law or fact. It is ostensibly based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12.(b)(6). While federal judges do apply their rule, Illinois state court judges almost never apply it, especially against bogus personal injury suits. I speak from personal experience from years being a defense litigator. I even had a judge tell me in open court he would NEVER grant a Rule 137 motion against a plaintiff's attorney because their clients have an absolute right to their day in court (i.e., counsel - tell your client to make a settlement offer). What you propose is the so-called "English Rule" - i.e., loser pays. The plaintiff's bar is vehemently against it for obvious reasons - they justify opposition on the basis that it would discourage the poor from filing meritorious lawsuits. You will never get a legislative remedy such as the "English Rule" because too many legislators take contributions from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association or they have their own plaintiff's practice in addition to their part-time job as a legislator. It is a stacked deck - when you do get a meritless case dismissed, you have to savour it like fine wine.
Teri D. Springer February 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM
"when you do get a meritless case dismissed, you have to savour it like fine wine." This is why I could never be an attorney....I tend to be very black and white...and, as one of my elementary school teachers once noted, my sword of justice and fairness is swift....

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