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Jeung-Hee Park, Individually, and As Special v. Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation

November 4, 2011

JEUNG-HEE PARK, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS SPECIAL
ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF HIROYUKI JOHO, DECEASED,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NORTHEAST ILLINOIS REGIONAL COMMUTER RAILROAD CORPORATION, A CORPORATION, SOO LINE RAILROAD COMPANY, D/B/A CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY, A FOREIGN CORPORATION,
DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 08 L 10762 Honorable Thomas P. Quinn, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cahill

JUSTICE CAHILL delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McBride and Garcia concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Plaintiff Jeung-Hee Park appeals the dismissal of her fifth amended complaint against defendants Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation (Metra) and Soo Line Railroad Company, doing business as Canadian Pacific Railway (Canadian Pacific). We affirm.

¶ 2 Plaintiff brought this negligence action on behalf of her son, Hiroyuki Joho (Hiroyuki), who was struck and killed by an Amtrak train as he crossed the railroad tracks at Edgebrook train station in Chicago. The trial court granted defendants' motions to dismiss plaintiff's claims against them under sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619 (West 2006)).

¶ 3 The facts, as alleged in plaintiff's fifth amended complaint, are as follows. About 7:50 a.m. on September 13, 2008, plaintiff drove Hiroyuki to Edgebrook train station located on Metra's Milwaukee district line. The Milwaukee district line is comprised of two parallel railroad tracks. A passenger platform borders each track. The tracks are used by both Metra and Amtrak trains. Amtrak trains do not stop at the Edgebrook station. There are no signs posted at the station warning passengers that Amtrak trains operate on the Milwaukee District line and pass through the station without stopping.

¶ 4 On the date in question, Hiroyuki intended to board Metra's Chicago-bound commuter train number 2602. The train was scheduled to arrive to Edgebrook station at 7:50 a.m. but was delayed. Because of the delay, Amtrak train number 330 had executed a crossover maneuver. As a result of the crossover, the Amtrak train approached Edgebrook station about the time the Metra train was scheduled to arrive at the station. The crossover maneuver was guided by Canadian Pacific, which was responsible for rail traffic control on the Milwaukee district line. Canadian Pacific at that time was not required to notify Metra when an Amtrak train was approaching or passing through Edgebrook station.

¶ 5 Hiroyuki entered Edgebrook station on the east passenger platform. A line of bushes and trees obstructed Hiroyuki's ability to see the approaching Amtrak train until he was on the platform. Because the west platform at the Edgebrook station is ordinarily used by passengers to board Chicago-bound trains, Hiroyuki attempted to cross the tracks at a designated pedestrian railroad crossing. There were no audible or visual warning devices or a crossing gate at the pedestrian crossing to warn passengers of approaching trains. There were audible and visual warning devices at the alternative railroad crossing near Devon Avenue located about 100 yards south of the pedestrian crossing. Metra did not announce the approach of the Amtrak train on the loudspeakers located along both passenger platforms. Plaintiff alleged that as Hiroyuki crossed the tracks, he was aware of the approaching Amtrak train but believed it to be the Metra train he intended to board. Plaintiff claimed the light, sound and appearance of the Amtrak train were inadequate to dissuade Hiroyuki of his assumption that the approaching train was Metra train number 2602 which was scheduled to stop at Edgebrook station. The Amtrak train passed through the station at about 70 miles per hour, striking and killing Hiroyuki.

¶ 6 Plaintiff filed a three-count complaint against Metra and Canadian Pacific. Counts I and II were directed against Metra. Count I alleged that Metra willfully and wantonly breached its duty to maintain its property at Edgebrook station in a reasonably safe condition. Count II sounds in common law negligence and alleged Metra negligently breached its duty to maintain its property at Edgebrook station in a reasonably safe condition. The factual allegations in support of each count are identical. Plaintiff alleged that Edgebrook station was unsafe because Metra failed to: (1) install visual or audible warning devices on the pedestrian railroad crossing; (2) install a crossing gate at the crossing; (3) announce the approach of the Amtrak train on the loudspeakers located along the passenger platforms; (4) require its engineers, Amtrak engineers or Canadian Pacific to notify Metra an Amtrak train was approaching the station; (5) take measures to assure that rail traffic control exercised by Canadian Pacific was not dangerous to the safety of passengers; (6) adequately warn passengers of the open and obvious danger of trains; and (7) remove foliage lining the east passenger platform.

¶ 7 Count III was directed against Canadian Pacific and sounds in common law negligence. Count III alleged Canadian Pacific was negligent for failing to adopt and adhere to a policy of notifying Metra when Amtrak trains were approaching and passing through Edgebrook station. Plaintiff claimed that Canadian Pacific's omission to adhere to such a policy directly and proximately resulted in the accident.

¶ 8 Metra moved to dismiss counts I and II under sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619 (West 2006)). In its section 2-615 motion to dismiss, Metra argued that it had no duty to make public improvements on its property or warn Hiroyuki of the open and obvious danger of a train on a railroad track. In its section 2-619 motion, Metra argued that under section 3-104 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Tort Immunity Act) (745 ILCS 10/3-104 (West 2006)) it had no duty to install warning devices at Edgebrook station.

¶ 9 Canadian Pacific moved to dismiss count III under section 2-615 of the Code, arguing it had no duty to notify Metra of the Amtrak train or warn Hiroyuki of the open and obvious danger posed by the train. Canadian Pacific also argued that its failure to notify Metra of the Amtrak train was not the proximate cause of the accident. The trial court granted defendants' motions to dismiss, finding that plaintiff failed to state a cause of action for negligence because defendants owed no duty to warn Hiroyuki of the open and obvious danger posed by a moving train. Plaintiff appeals.

¶ 10 A motion to dismiss under section 2-615 of the Code challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint for failure to state a cause of action on which relief can be granted. Feltmeier v. Feltmeier, 207 Ill. 2d 263, 267, 798 N.E.2d 75 (2003). A motion to dismiss under section 2-619 of the Code, on the other hand, challenges the complaint based on certain defects or defenses. 735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2000). In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, we accept as true all well-pled facts and reasonable inferences that may be drawn from those facts. City of Chicago v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., 213 Ill. 2d 351, 364, 821 N.E.2d 1099 (2004); Feltmeier, 207 Ill. 2d at 277. We review the trial court order dismissing plaintiff's complaint under sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Code de novo. See Feltmeier, 207 Ill. 2d at 266.

ΒΆ 11 To state a cause of action for negligence a plaintiff must plead: (1) the existence of a duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) an injury proximately caused by the breach; and (4) damages. Boyd v. Travelers Insurance Co., 166 Ill. 2d 188, 194-95, 652 N.E.2d 267 (1995). On appeal, plaintiff claims defendants owed Hiroyuki a duty of ordinary care to guard against injury. Whether a duty exists is determined by asking if the defendant and the plaintiff stood in such a relationship to one another that the law imposed on the "defendant an obligation of reasonable conduct for the benefit of the plaintiff." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Bucheleres v. Chicago Park ...


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