ENGEL v. CHICAGO & NW. TRANSPORTATION CO.
186 Ill. App.3d 522 (1989)
542 N.E.2d 729
JOHN ENGEL, a Minor by his Mother and Next Friend, Donna Hultman, Plaintiff-Appellee and Cross-Appellant,
CHICAGO & NORTH WESTERN TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, Defendant (The Chicago Park District, Defendant-Appellant and Cross-Appellee).
Appellate Court of Illinois — First District (4th Division).
Opinion filed February 16, 1989.
Rehearing denied August 24, 1989.
Kralovec, Marquard, Doyle & Gibbons, Chartered, of Chicago (Nancy Jo Arnold and Baker & McKenzie, of counsel), for appellant.
Hofeld & Schaffner, of Chicago (Albert F. Hofeld and Howard Schaffner, of counsel), for appellee.
JUSTICE LINN delivered the opinion of the court:
The minor plaintiff, John Engel, was severely injured when he jumped from a moving train. Following a jury trial, he was awarded $5 million in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages. The trial court subsequently vacated the punitive damages award, on post-trial motion, but upheld the jury's verdict as to liability
and compensatory damages. Defendant Chicago Park District (District) appeals, contending that the risk of danger in climbing on and off a moving train is obvious and that defendant therefore had no legal duty to plaintiff. The Park District further argues that it did not receive a fair trial because the jury was angry and prejudiced against it, as indicated by the large award and the finding that Engel had zero contributory negligence for his injuries. Plaintiff cross-appeals from the trial court's entry of judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the punitive damages award.
John Engel was 12 years old on September 27, 1981. On that date he went to Hermosa Park in Chicago to play with his friends. The park is operated by the Chicago Park District. There are tennis courts, a playground, a playing field, and other recreational facilities. The entire park is fenced. Along the west side of the park are railroad tracks.
For at least two years prior to Engel's injury the fence along the west side had a large opening that extended from the bottom to the top of the fence. Children and adults used this large hole in the fence as a short cut. Through this opening, children had direct access to the railroad tracks from the park. There was an embankment leading to the tracks, and railroad ties set in the embankment created a stairway up to the tracks.