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Settlement With Rail Road for Improper Handicap Access Ramp

Atlee Hall attorneys Jaime Jackson and Angelina Umstead  recently settled a case against tourist railroad company, on behalf of a client who was badly injured when a makeshift “handicap accessible “ ramp between two rail cars collapsed dumping our client who was in a motorized scooter to the ground.

Our client had suffered from Multiple Sclerosis (“MS”), a disorder of the central nervous system where the immune system attacks the protective sheath covering the nerves.  Signs and symptoms of the disease vary, but include numbness and weakness in one or more limbs that usually occurs on one side of the body at a time, or in the legs and trunk.  Gait problems can result due to weakness, spasticity, and loss of balance. As a result she had diminished strength in her left leg due to her MS, and so she routinely used a motorized scooter – a Z-Chair – when traveling outside the home.

The train depot did not have an elevated/handicapped ramp. The conductor and another employee of the Railroad set up an accordion-style, metal fold-out ramp that was not ADA compliant, that extended from the sidewalk to the train car, but instead of setting it up at the entrance to the handicap car, the conductor and railroad employee positioned the ramp at the entrance to an open car that was adjacent to the handicap one.  They then told our client that she could enter the open car, turn right, and go straight into the handicap car.

When she went over the ramp and into the open car, she saw that the floor had a slight downhill incline with shallow ripples that were wide enough for the front wheels of her scooter to go down into the grooves and be caught.  When she told the conductor and railroad employee this, they laid the metal fold-out ramp over the grooves, but when she tried to cross the non ADA- compliant ramp, the weight of the scooter caused the bottom part of the ramp’s frame to fold into a dip, so that the last flap stuck up, and when the front wheels of the scooter came in contact with the flap, the flap caused the scooter to tip forward, tossing her onto the platform between the two cars, with the scooter landing on top of her fracturing her legs.

The case was successfully able to be resolved short of filing a lawsuit and after extensive pre-suit negotiations with the attorneys representing the railroad. In reaching an amicable settlement before a lawsuit was filed, both our client and the railroad were able to save extensive litigation related expenses and instead, were amicably able to resolve the case fairly for both sides.