On June 30, 1967, a railroad worker of the Long Island Railroad, slipped while performing his job on a Long Island Railroad train. When he slipped, his legs went under the steel wheels and were amputated from his body. His wife filed suit on his behalf while he was still in the hospital, just 30 days following the double amputation of his legs. She made notice to the railroad of the suit also within 30 days of the injury. It was only then that she found out that the Long Island Railroad was part of a silent amendment. She attempted to get a response from the railroad to her personal injury claims and was summarily ignored until 10 months following the accident. At that point, they advised her that the silent amendment prohibited her from filing a personal injury lawsuit against them after eight months following the injury. The wife informed the railroad that she had made notice to them of the suit within 30 days of the injury which was well before the eight month limit.
She also challenged the eight- month limit on its legality. An eight-month limit is generally only applicable to municipalities. The Long Island Railroad is a privately owned organization and is not subject to the benefits of a municipality in her contention. Further, there was no notice that they should receive this special treatment during any type of liability suit. The wife made a motion to the court that the personal injury lawsuit should be accepted because she filed the summons and complaint within the 90 day stipulation and that the summons and complaint should constitute compliance with the statute.
The railroad disagreed. They contend that the wife did not file a notice of claim within the eight months limit. They acknowledge that she filed the summons and complaint within the 90 day limit, but maintain that the actual notice of claim was not filed until ten months after the injury and that it would not be in compliance with the statute.
The court examined the statute and discovered that most private industry personal injury claims provide a twelve month window in which to file a notice of claim. They discovered that on January 20, 1966, Metropolitan Transit and Triborough, a public benefit corporation purchased the Long Island Railroad. Even though the Long Island Railroad continued to be considered a private business and not a municipality or public benefit corporation. The Long Island Railroad was incorporated into the authority and provided with the protections of the public benefit corporation. The court expressed some concern over the secrecy involved in this transaction and the limitations that it applies to anyone injured while employed for the Long Island Railroad.
Because the court determined that the statute was created in opposition to the other laws regulating personal injury claims for private corporations, they expressed concern that creating an exception for this one railroad should be examined. However, the court is not provided with the power of the legislature to write and change laws. They are only allowed to enforce the statutes that are currently in effect. The court determined that for the purposes of this lawsuit, the fact that the wife failed to provide under the special privilege provided by the secret amendment that a 90 day notice of claim does not entitle the railroad to escape the responsibility that they have toward this employee.
The fact that the wife did file numerous letters and intent, service of summons, and a complaint, well within the 90 day limit was sufficient to satisfy the intent of the law. The railroad’s request to prevent the personal injury claim from going through was denied. The injured employee and his wife’s request to amend their complaint to include the 30 day letter of allegation to comply with the statute was granted.
At Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its personal injury lawyers there are convenient offices throughout New York State and Metropolitan area. Our railroad accident Attorneys can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations. Hiring a civil attorney can prevent you from losing precious time with your family.