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Metro-North Train Accident Victim Wins $518,000

(Case issue: gap between the railcar and the platform)

Case Expert: Carl Berkowitz, Ph.D., PE, AICP

Case Summary

A 47-year-old woman who had suffered serious injuries from a fall while boarding a Metro-North Railroad car was awarded more than $500,000.  She slipped on the icy platform of the Metro-North Brewster Train Station while boarding a New York City bound train, causing her to fall into the gap between the railcar and the platform.  State Supreme Court Justice Andrew O'Rourke of Putnam County awarded McIlvenny $518,000 in compensation, including $228,000 in lost income, $250,000 for physical pain and mental suffering, and $40,000 for out-of-pocket expenses. 

Case Article

Railroad Found Responsible for Causing Brewster Woman’s Injuries

Published by the Mid-Hudson News Network, Friday January 9, 2009
CARMEL — State Supreme Court Justice Andrew O’Rourke has found the Metro-North Railroad fully responsible for injuries suffered by a Brewster woman who fell into a gap between the railroad car and the platform at the Brewster station in December 2003.

O’Rourke’s decision released Wednesday determined that the railroad was negligent in its construction and maintenance of the platform and that “negligence was 100-percent responsible” for injuries incurred by Karen McIlvenny.

Testimony during the non-jury trial revealed as the woman was attempting to board the train to Manhattan she stepped into the open gap between the platform and the railroad car. While McIlvenny’s right foot was already on the train, her left foot slipped due to an icy condition on the platform.

Attorney Gregory Bagen of Brewster argued if the railroad car had been at the same level as the platform and if the gap had been a reasonable four to seven inches wide, her foot would have merely slid onto the car and it would have been extremely unlikely she would have been injured.

Testimony by railroad witnesses indicated the car was four to five inches higher than the platform and the gap between the platform and the train was 12 inches.

Dr. Carl Berkowitz, a retired engineering professor and former transportation engineer for New York City and New York State, explained “there was no justification for the horizontal and vertical gaps.”

Judge O’Rourke criticized the railroad for producing “no expert witnesses” to dispute the claim and as a result “no contributory negligence was proven.”

After finding the railroad responsible for the fall where McIlvenny’s leg went more than two feet into the gap causing permanent injury to her sacroiliac joint, the judge determined that Metro North was responsible to compensate the woman for her out of pocket expenses, lost income, physical pain and the mental suffering that always accompanies physical injury.

Bagen told the Courier that his client is still receiving treatment—now on an intermittent basis—more than five years after the incident.

Judge O’Rourke ruled Mrs. McIlvenny was entitled to $513,000 in compensation that included $40,000 for out of pocket expenses; $228,000 in lost income; and $250,000 for pain and suffering.