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Gordon v. Chicago Transit Authority





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Warren Wolfson, Judge, presiding.


A jury found defendant Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) liable in negligence for injuries sustained by plaintiff when she was assaulted, raped and robbed while a passenger aboard a CTA rapid transit train. CTA raises as issues whether the circuit court erred by: (1) denying CTA's motion for a directed verdict; (2) giving plaintiff's instruction on CTA's duty of care; and (3) permitting testimony by plaintiff's expert as to the ultimate issues in the case.

Plaintiff, 29 years old at the time of trial, testified that at about 7 p.m. on March 8, 1977, she boarded an eight-car southbound Howard North-South rapid transit "A" train at the Loyola station. She was sitting in the center of the third car when a young, muscular black man sat beside her, touched her legs, moved her dress up, and said vulgar things. She told him to get away and stood up to leave, which he physically prevented, saying he had a knife in his pocket. She again tried to stand but was forced to sit down, as he continued to play with her legs. He then grabbed her left arm, twisted it, and, after she screamed and tried to escape, he forced her into the unoccupied, unlighted motorman's compartment at the end of the car. He unzipped her dress, touched her "everywhere," and raped her. She screamed again. The rape continued until the train was close to the Belmont stop. She fought and struggled, but feared for her life. After the rape, he went through her purse, took her money, and told her to face the corner and not turn around until the Fullerton stop. When the assailant had gone, she ran through the cars to the front of the train, pounded on the motorman's booth and, at Fullerton, the motorman escorted her from the train to the station ticket agent. She was taken to a hospital where she was examined, but was not admitted. She was given pills to take in the event of pregnancy.

On cross-examination, plaintiff stated that she has received no medical treatment since being examined at the hospital following the attack. From the time she entered the train that day, she never saw the conductor. She first noticed her assailant before the train stopped at Argyle. There were six to eight people in the car when she entered, and only when her assailant sat beside her did she notice they were gone. She did not see them get off. No other passengers were in the car during the attack.

The motorman of the train involved testified that when plaintiff approached him to report the rape, she was in tears but was not in disarray. He radioed his controller, who then called the ambulance and police. He escorted her from the train to the ticket agent. He later filed a report of the incident. He has been a motorman on the Howard line for 11 to 12 years, and this was the only rape reported aboard one of his trains. There are six "A" train stops between Loyola and Fullerton. The run between Wilson and Belmont takes approximately three minutes. "Trimming" a motorman's cab refers to adapting it for passenger use by locking the door into the face of the train and letting the seat down. CTA required unused cabs to be trimmed and lighted.

CTA's director of special investigations for security investigated CTA employees only and was not concerned with passenger safety. The uniformed personnel section of the department was responsible for plant and property maintenance and protection, not with passenger safety. The only relevant crime pattern statistics were maintained by the Mass. Transit Unit of the Chicago police department (MTU). No CTA unit was responsible only for passenger protection. On cross-examination, the director noted that the MTU patrols rapid transit trains and platforms and investigates crimes on the rapid transit system.

Interrogatories were answered by CTA and read into the record. They detailed 21 reported criminal incidents occurring between March 8, 1976, and November 1, 1976, on the subject rapid transit line between the Loyola and Fullerton stops, involving crimes against persons. None involved a rape or attempted rape.

Plaintiff also presented the testimony of a witness who purported to be an expert on transit crimes. He had been a CTA transit security officer for 12 years and also a military and railroad policeman. He had attended numerous courses and conferences related to law enforcement and security and was personally acquainted with the CTA security system as it existed on the date of the subject incident. In his opinion, the list of 21 incidents provided by CTA in its interrogatory answer was incomplete. Prior to 1977, CTA did not analyze its own crime statistics, but maintained a chronological file of all incidents that came to its attention from police reports, security department reports, complaint letters, and employee reports, to serve as a source of information when passengers made claims against CTA. In his opinion, CTA has "the most complete information available to it, and if properly used, that information could be the best source of compiling crime analysis studies and determining what measures could be taken to prevent crime * * *." If the motorman's cab had been closed and access to the compartment denied, "it would have eliminated a place of concealment for the offender and the crime would very likely not have been committed," based upon his own knowledge of the CTA and on a 1972 study of CTA crime made by the Carnegie-Mellon Institute, which analyzed CTA crime and conditions and efforts being made to combat crime. The study, of which CTA was aware, recommended certain improvements, including the elimination of "hide architecture" by means of the "proper closure of unused motorman's booths." The Howard section of the North-South line has a high crime rate, and many crimes against persons occur between 5 and 10 p.m. By knowing where problems are, CTA could direct efforts at the most troublesome spots and times. Patrol activities and station checks could be directed on the basis of these statistics; this was not done, however. Passengers who are alone in cars provide a "high potential" for crime, and "[w]omen are particularly vulnerable." The low volume of southbound travel at the time of the occurrence here, along with the use of an eight-car train, meant that passengers "will be widely scattered" and increased the possibility that passengers would be left alone in cars.

On cross-examination, the above witness testified to the operations of the MTU. He admitted that he personally has a lawsuit pending against CTA, and had been previously involved in several suits against CTA in his capacity as recording secretary for the Amalgamated Transit Union.

A clinical psychologist and professor in the department of neurology and psychiatry at Northwestern University Medical School testified for plaintiff. He initially examined plaintiff at the request of her attorney on December 10, 1981, after she had been subjected to a battery of psychological tests. In his opinion, there was a "significant effect upon her intellectual functioning of the presence of a very high level of anxiety, agitation * * * an almost panic-like quality." Plaintiff's view of the world as an "assaultive, threatening, attacking, power," left her "depressed, despondent, dispirited." These psychological effects are such as would have resulted from her 1977 attack on the train. He found her condition to be "a chronic debilitating anxiety reaction, secondary to the CTA train assault in 1977." This condition would affect her throughout her life; her prognosis was "guarded," as it was unlikely that she would return to her pre-1977 state.

The CTA conductor on the third or fourth car of the subject eight-car train on March 8, 1977, testified for CTA. Plaintiff, who came from the "rear cars," approached him and said, "I have been raped." He said nothing; she turned from him and went to the motorman in the first car. She looked "fine" to him. "[E]verything was normal" prior to her report. He saw no suspicious person on the platform or train. There had been nothing unusual with anybody getting on or off the train. He was not equipped with a radio; if anything was wrong, he would go to the motorman, who would make the call. He had been trained to assist "people in distress." He was not supposed to leave his position while the train was in operation; the only time he goes from car to car is at the main station when changing signs on the train.

A Chicago police detective investigated the instant rape and robbery report. At the hospital, plaintiff told him she didn't want to cooperate with police or take part in an investigation to apprehend the offender.

The director of service for the CTA, a CTA employee for 32 years, testified that he is responsible for the ongoing operation of all buses and trains. The CTA Howard-Englewood-Jackson, or North-South, line averages between 100,000 to 200,000 passengers per day. CTA rules provide that a conductor must be positioned between the third and fourth cars of an eight-car train. From this position, the conductor can see the "yellow safety stripe" on the platform which indicates that the doors of the train can be safely opened. A conductor is responsible for passengers entering and leaving the train, and "for the assistance that he can give to a passenger, or for any unusual occurrence * * *." The normal running time from Wilson to Belmont is 3 1/2-4 1/2 minutes. All CTA employees are responsible "to give safety to passengers, regardless of what position they're in." It was not the conductor's job, however, to walk through the train to patrol for criminal activity, which would not be feasible and would violate CTA rules. The CTA security department protected CTA property and employees; security provided by riding the trains was the responsibility of MTU.

The Chicago police commander who in 1977 headed the special operations group, which included the MTU, testified for the CTA. The MTU consisted of about 300 police officers responsible for providing safety and security to the patrons and employees of the CTA. The MTU operated by maintaining fixed posts at certain rapid transit stations, having uniformed officers ride various trains and check platforms and train conditions, and maintaining a technical undercover operation wherein officers act as "decoys" to catch criminals. From 1974 through 1977 the MTU kept internal records relating to crime on the CTA, in order to determine resource allocation. People were put where they were most needed. While he ...

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