Jacob Ohl, 17, was walking along railroad tracks on March 2 in Liliburn when he was hit by an oncoming train that did not have a functioning camera, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The teen is suing for compensation for his injuries from railroad company CSX and operators Derrick Tyrone Marshall and Clifton Edward Martin, who were running the train.
The lawsuit, which was filed last week, claimed the train conductor never blew the train’s horn to alert the teen, who was wearing headphones. The suit also claims there was no fencing or warning devices for pedestrians.
According to the suit, the engineer and conductor saw Ohl about 1,000 feet before striking him, but the train wasn’t stopped for another half-mile after the accident.
His mom, Fern Cook, wrote on a GoFundMe page that the 17-year-old called 911 after the incident to get help.
He was rushed to the hospital, where both his legs had to be amputated below the knee.
“We all feel lost in the overwhelming helplessness of this crazy situation,” Cook said.
It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. Railroad tracks are private property and walking on them constitutes trespassing, whether or not there was a fence or the teen saw a sign.
Georgia is a modified comparative negligence state. That means a plaintiff can recover damages for their injuries from the responsible party or parties even if they were partially at fault, as long as their percentage of fault does not equal or exceed that of the other party, or it does not exceed the proportion of fault of all other parties combined. Further, the damages awarded will be reduced by their percentage of responsibility. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33.
In this case, however, by walking on the train tracks, the plaintiff was trespassing on private property. That puts 100% of the negligence on him because he never should have been there.
In addition, listening to headphones prevented him from hearing the approaching train. Again, 100% negligence on his part.
He was in a place where he knew, or should reasonably have known, that a train was possible. He chose to ignore that risk and lost his feet as a result.
The train was doing what trains do. I think it’s going to be hard to prove that the plaintiff was not 51% negligent in this case and I don’t think his mom’s “people walk on those tracks all the time” and “there was no fence” defense is going to hold up.