Illinois State Jury Awards $ 6,654,000.00 To Chicago Transit Passenger Who Suffered Aggravation Of Pre-Existing Back Condition When Train Derailed
At 3:00 a.m. on March 24, 2014, plaintiff Yolanda Montes was a passenger riding into O'Hare Airport. Montes, a 33 year old woman, was there to start her shift as a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) for the Transportation Security Agency on The O'Hare Blue Line L train. She was standing in the 6th train car from the front holding onto a metal pole when the operator fell asleep and crashed the train into the end barrier and up the escalators at the airport As a result of the crash, Montes struck the front of her head on the metal pole she was holding onto, struck the back of her head on the door, and struck her back on the divider panel.
Montes was transported to a local hospital where she was diagnosed with a concussion and a neck sprain. She followed up with her primary care physicians who ordered MRIs, provided various medications, and ordered physical therapy (PT). She also followed up with a spine surgeon who also recommended PT and an epidural steroid injection with a pain physician. After nearly 12 months of conservative care failed to eliminate her symptoms, she underwent a C5-C6 cervical fusion in June of 2015 and then a L5-S1 Lumbar fusion in March of 2016. Montes maintained that this care was necessary to address her previously asymptomatic degenerative disk disease/ arthritis that became symptomatic as a result of the train crash. As a result of her alleged injuries and surgeries, Montes was unable to continue in her security officer position with the TSA, and she ended up making less money as an Administrative Assistant with the TSA.
On April 29, 2014, Montes filed a complaint against the Chicago Transit Authority in the Illinois Circuit Court for Cook County. The action was assigned to Judge Arnette Hubbard for trial.
During trial, plaintiff's counsel did not dispute that Montes had a preexisting degenerative condition of her spine, but instead argued that it was not symptomatic before this train crash and required no medical treatment. Defendant retained a spine surgeon to claim that the plaintiff did not sustain any aggravation to her preexisting arthritis in her spine, but instead had only sustained a neck sprain and back sprain that resolved within 6-8 weeks. Defendant admitted negligence in the operation of their train but denied Montes sustained anything more than a concussion, neck sprain, and a back sprain. Because of the defendant's admission of negligence, the jury did not hear that the operator fell asleep.
Prior to trial, defendant offered $ 600,000.00 to settle. Plaintiff demanded $ 3,000,000.00. During trial, defendant raised the settlement offer to $ 2,000,000.00. Plaintiff declined that offer. On May 5, 2017, the jury returned a verdict in Montes' favor, awarding her a total of $ 6,654,000.00. According to information from plaintiff's counsel, this was the last of the O'Hare Blue Line derailment cases and the largest verdict or settlement from any of them.
Plaintiff was represented by Christopher M. Norem and Amanda M. Martin of Parente & Norem, P.C. in Chicago, Illinois. Defendant was represented by Jade Simmons-Ford and Calvin Townsend of the Chicago Transit Authority Legal Department in Chicago, Illinois.
Lexis Advance subscribers may view the complete summary, including expert information, here: Yolanda Montes v. Chicago Transit Authority; 2017 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1382.
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