One minute, Dustin Dibble was enjoying a hockey game with friends. The next, he was lying in a hospital bed, missing part of his right leg. Later he would claim that he could not remember making it to the subway station, falling onto the tracks or the moment a speeding subway train severed his right leg below the calf.
Dibble’s personal injury lawsuit over the subway accident caused public uproar in 2009 when a New York jury awarded him more than $2 million dollars, mostly for future medical bills. However, the New York Appellate Division recently overturned the ruling, leaving Dibble confused and out of luck.
While most of the criticism levied at Dibble’s million-dollar award centered on the fact that the former college basketball player was intoxicated at the time of the accident, the court did not consider this in reaching its decision. Rather, the court looked at whether or not the train operator should have recognized a person on the tracks and could have stopped in time.
In the 2009 trial, Dibble’s attorney argued that the train operator should have recognized the form of a human being on the tracks. He pointed out that additional vigilance at a time of the night when pedestrians are intoxicated was necessary and, in this case, absent. He also noted that the train should have had ample space to stop after the operator first noticed Dibble.
The train operator claimed to have believed that the lump on the tracks was simply trash or some other discarded material.
In their ruling, the New York Appellate Court determined that speculation as to the train operator’s ability to stop in time was “impermissible” and, thus, “insufficient” as evidence.