Trespass at the Owner's Risk
It's hard to believe that anyone could win a lawsuit for being injured while trespassing on someone else's property. But that's exactly what happened to two Lancaster, Pa., teens who were severely burned atop a parked railroad car in 2002. While out skateboarding, Jeffrey Kline and Brett Birdwell illegally entered property owned by Amtrak and Norfolk Southern Corp. and climbed on top of a boxcar in hopes of getting a view of the city. An uninsulated wire suspended above the train jolted Klein with 12,500 volts of electricity, causing severe burns over 75 percent of his body. Birdwell received burns over 12 percent of his body when he ran to assist his friend, whose clothes were on fire.
In the October 2006 trial, a jury said that, although they were trespassing, the 17-year-old boys bore no responsibility for the accident. Instead the blame fell entirely on Amtrak and Norfolk Southern for failing to post signs warning of the danger from the electrified wires that power locomotives. For medical costs, pain and suffering, and "loss of life pleasures," the teens received a combined $24.2 million.