Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 14 L 5879 The
Honorable Claire E. McWilliams, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices McBride and Ellis concurred in the judgment
1 Plaintiff Robert Hoffman sued defendant Northeast Illinois
Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation (Metra), alleging
negligence when a Metra ticket agent stepped backward on a
train platform, bumping into plaintiff and causing plaintiff
to fall and break his hip. After a jury trial, the jury
returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff and against
defendant, and assessed damages totaling $500, 000, which
were itemized as follows: (1) past medical expenses, $54,
263.70; (2) future medical expenses, $70, 000; (3) past pain
and suffering, $45, 736.30; (4) future pain and suffering,
$30, 000; (5) past loss of normal life, $100, 000; (6) future
loss of normal life, $100, 000; and (7) disfigurement, $100,
000. However, the jury found plaintiff 50% responsible and
reduced his total recoverable damages to $250, 000.
2 Defendant filed a posttrial motion: (1) seeking a new trial
on the ground that the trial court erred in allowing evidence
of defendant's internal safety rules and regulations; or
(2), in the alternative, seeking a remittitur of the damages
that the jury awarded plaintiff for future medical expenses.
The trial court denied the motion, and defendant raises the
same two claims on this appeal. For the following reasons, we
4 In its appellate brief, plaintiff did not include a
statement of facts. The following facts were established at
trial and do not appear to be in dispute on appeal. Ill.
S.Ct. R. 341(i) (eff. Jan. 1, 2016) (a statement of facts
"need not be included" in an appellee's brief
"except to the extent that the presentation by the
appellant is deemed unsatisfactory" by the appellee).
5 Plaintiff, a 68-year old resident of Fox Lake, Illinois,
departed his home early in the morning of Saturday, June 8,
2013, to walk to a nearby McDonald's restaurant. This
destination caused him to walk past the Metra station in Fox
6 Richard Davis, a Metra employee for 27 years, worked as the
ticket agent at the Fox Lake station, where he had been
stationed since 1991. On June 8, 2013, the day in question,
Davis arrived at the station at 4:35 a.m. and did not
initially notice anyone on the platform. However, at 5 a.m.,
Davis observed a man in a sleeping bag on the platform, who
was lying parallel to the train tracks. The tracks are below
the platform, but the platform is at ground level. The
platform consists of brick pavers and, at some point, the
pavers end and merge with the sidewalk, which is made of
7 Sometime before 5:30 a.m., Davis exited the station in
order to ask the sleeping man to move. Davis walked south, on
the brick pavers located on the west side of the tracks. As
Davis exited the station, Davis noticed plaintiff, whom Davis
had observed walking past the station on other occasions.
When Davis reached the man in the sleeping bag, Davis asked
him to leave the platform. As the man started to stand up,
Davis took a step back and, thereby, bumped into plaintiff
who, unknown to Davis, was right behind Davis. It is
undisputed that Davis did not look behind him before stepping
back. Plaintiff fell to the ground, and Davis and another
person helped plaintiff to a nearby bench.
8 It was plaintiff's plan to sit for a while and rest.
However, after the 10:45 a.m. train came and went, a Metra
police officer approached; and eventually an ambulance
transported plaintiff to a hospital where he was diagnosed
with a fractured hip.
9 On June 3, 2014, plaintiff filed a complaint against
defendant alleging that Davis, a Metra employee, breached a
duty of care to plaintiff when Davis stepped backward without
looking, thereby causing plaintiff to fall. Metra answered
and asserted that plaintiff was contributorily negligent.
10 Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion in
limine on September 13, 2016, seeking to bar plaintiff
from introducing evidence or argument concerning
defendant's internal safety rules. On the day in
question, defendant had an employee safety manual entitled
"Safety Rules and General Procedures Manual." Rule
1.12 in the manual required defendant's employees to:
"be careful to prevent injury to themselves or others.
They must be alert and attentive when performing their duties
and plan their work to avoid injury."
11 Rule 100.9.3 stated:
"Elevated Places, Stairs, Doors and Elevators: The
following requirements when walking on an elevated place,
walking on stairs, using a door or riding elevators: Rule
Number 1, when walking on engines, cars, scaffolds, or other
elevated places, (A) look before you step in any
12 In connection with its pretrial motion, defendant argued
to the trial court that its internal safety rules were not
relevant to plaintiff's claims because the rules were
developed for the safety of its employees not for the safety
of the general public. The trial court denied defendant's
13 Prior to opening statements on September 14, 2015,
defendant renewed its motion seeking to bar plaintiff
"from making any comment *** that a violation of
Metra's *** rules or internal guidelines constitutes
negligence and/or imposes a legal duty on the
defendant." The trial court denied defendant's
motion, stating: "this is routinely and customarily and
properly used to show evidence of negligence in a case. This
motion is denied."
14 Since most of the facts in this case are undisputed on
this appeal, we focus below on the evidence and arguments at
trial concerning the two points of contention on appeal: the
admission of defendant's safety rules; and the
sufficiency of the evidence concerning defendant's future
15 During opening remarks, plaintiff argued, among other
"We're here today because we're suing Metra.
Rich Davis was an employee of Metra when he broke a safety
rule. A railroad company acts through its employees. We know
that Metra violated this rule because Rich Davis told us.
He'll tell you as well. He'll tell you that he took-
he'll tell you that he did not look when he took a step
16 During the ensuing trial, plaintiff questioned Davis at
length about defendant's safety rules. For example,
plaintiff asked Davis concerning Rule 100.9.3, as follows:
"PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL: And when it comes to Rule
100.9.3, 'Elevated Places, Stairs, Doors and Elevators,
the rule states: The following requirements when walking on
an elevated place, walking on stairs, using a door or riding
elevators: Rule Number 1, when walking on engines, cars,
scaffolds or other elevated places, (A) look before you step
in any direction.'
Does that rule apply to you on June 8, 2013?
DAVIS: I don't know how you can call a platform an
elevated structure, sir."
17 Plaintiff's counsel continued to ask Davis about this
"PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL: Looking back at Rule 100.9.3,
elevated places, stairs, doors and elevators you have already
testified I think to the Members of the Jury that a platform
is elevated from the tracks and the ballast; isn't that
DAVIS: I don't know how a platform could be considered an
PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL: Would you agree, Mr. Davis, that a
platform is elevated above the rocks [supporting the tracks]?
DAVIS: Yes, it is.
PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL: And would you agree then that
it's important in order for someone not to fall off the
platform onto the track and ballast and then rock, correct-
PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL: -on the track and ballast, that they
follow Rule 100.9.3?
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Objection, relevance.
THE COURT: Overruled. You can answer.
DAVIS: It's important, yes.
PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL: With that understanding, would you
agree then on June 8, 2013, when you walked out onto the
platform that Rule ...