Riding as a Passenger on Public Transport

The Chicago personal injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer have recently talked to a number of people injured on public transportation.  In 2021 there were 195,980,563 riders who used the Chicago Transit Authority System (“CTA”). In the month of October 2022 there were 23,576,296 riders who used the CTA rail /the CTA rail system for the 2022 year. As indicated by the numbers, public transit is a way that a significant number of people in use to get around the city of Chicago.  But with the huge number of riders that use the CTA, the odds of a passenger getting injured while riding is likely to occur. But who exactly is considered a passenger?

A contractual relationship between passenger and carrier begins when a passenger has presented himself at the proper place to be transported with the intention of becoming a passenger. Chicago & Eastern Illinois R.R. Co. vs Jennings, 190 Ill. 478, 484. A person becomes a passenger when, intending to take passage, enters a place provided for the reception of passengers, as a deport, waiting room, or the life, at a time when such a place is open for the reception of persons intending to take passage on the trains of the company. Id at 485. However, the mere fact of having a ticket or intending to take the train in not sufficient to be considered a passenger. Id at 486. The carrier then has to expressly or impliedly accept the passenger. Illinois Cent. R. Co. v. O’Keefe, 168 Ill. 115 (Ill. 1897)  Whether there is an acceptance by the carrier is judged largely by its own facts. Todd v. Louisville & N.R. Co., 274 Ill. 201, 207 (Ill. 1916)

According to the Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, to be a passenger one must be in the act of boarding, be upon, or be in the act of alighting (departing) from the carrier’s vehicle. Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions – Civil No. 100.09. The plaintiff in the Illinois Appellate court case Pence, was not considered a passenger when he had purchased a Metra train ticket, parked his car in a Metra owned parking lot, and while crossing the street to the train station tripped on a bolt protruding from a railroad tie. Pence v. Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter R.R. Corp., 398 Ill. App. 3d 13 (2010). The Illinois Supreme court held in Katamay, to come within the definition of a passenger it is not necessary the person have come into actual contact with the train to be qualified as a passenger as long as that person had the intention to board the train, paid the fare, and made steps to that end. Katamay v. Chicago Transit Authority, 53 Ill. 2d 27, 29 (1972). In Katamay, while the plaintiff was trying to board the train, she caught her heel between the planks of the platform, causing her to fall. There were disputed facts if the plaintiff was in contact with the train after she fell (a witness said her head was couple feet from door). The Katamay court found there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude she was a passenger under the trial court’s jury instruction, even if she made no contact with the train. Id at 32. Recently however courts have changed their tune and have limited what constitutes a passenger. At least in some jurisdictions, a person is no longer considered a passenger merely by paying a fare and waiting at the station platform with the intent to board a train Anderson v. Chicago Transit Authority, 131 N.E. 3d 1245 (2019)

Public transportation is an efficient and cheaper way to navigate the city. For the most part it is safe for passengers and drivers alike in that it keeps the number of vehicles on the roads down and by extent the number of car accidents down as well. However, if you find that you have been injured as a passenger on a bus or train, the attorneys at Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. are here to help.

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