Jeramey Jannene

Council Clears Path for Streetcar Lawsuit

Lawsuit would be the first of 11 planned by Hupy & Abraham.

By - May 7th, 2019 02:31 pm
W. St. Paul Ave. Streetcar Track. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

W. St. Paul Ave. Streetcar Track during construction in 2017. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee Common Council cleared a path Tuesday morning for the first lawsuit regarding Milwaukee’s streetcar system to proceed.

The council unanimously rejected the $50,000 injury claim of motorcyclist DuWayne D. Criter. Last August, Hupy & Abraham S.C. announced it was filing a notice of injury on behalf of Criter against the City of Milwaukee as a result of a crash. Criter was allegedly heading east on W. St. Paul Ave. when he attempted to change lanes to turn north on Water St. and had the front wheel of his motorcycle get caught in the gap between the rail and street resulting in a crash.

The denial allows Criter to sue the city in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. It won’t be the last suit brought by the law firm; Hupy still has 10 other claims pending before the city.

“This is par for the course. It’s what we expected and we are going to now file lawsuits,” said attorney Michael Hupy in an interview. The attorney said he believes a Hupy-initiated advertising campaign in advance of Harley-Davidson‘s 115th-anniversary celebration prevented additional accidents. “There hasn’t been one accident since the Harley 115th that I’m aware of,” said Hupy. He said the city failed to provide adequate notice of the track’s installation.

The Common Council routinely rejects personal injury claims all kinds. Before filing suit against the city, individuals are required to submit a notice of injury to the city.

“This is not the first time in history someone has sued over an injury caused by an engineering feature,” said streetcar proponent, attorney and area alderman Robert Bauman in an April interview with Urban Milwaukee. Referencing everything from metal bridge plates to concrete curbs, Bauman said: “the law is pretty well settled.” But the case could end up in the increasingly partisan Wisconsin Supreme Court, acknowledged the alderman, who said the political nature of the streetcar could impact the outcome.

Bauman drew laughter from his colleagues at an April 29th meeting of the Judiciary & Legislation Committee when he cut off Hupy & Abraham attorney David Landgraf by stating: “We can go through and we can deny it, or we can just deny it because that’s what they want. We never grant claims for pain and suffering at the committee level.” Landgraf thanked Bauman and said he’s prepared for all of the claims to be denied. “We know the drill,” said Bauman.

A letter from independently-elected City Attorney Grant Langley and Deputy City Attorney Jan Smokowicz to the Common Council states: “There is no evidence that the City was negligent.”

Relying on a statement from the Department of Public Works Infrastructure Services Division, the city’s counsel writes “the streetcar tracks at West St. Paul Avenue and North Plankinton Avenue were constructed in accordance with the standard specifications, plans and accepted standards for streetcar infrastructure.” The work was performed for the city by infrastructure contractor Kiewet.

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Related Legislation: File 190006

More about the Milwaukee Streetcar

For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.

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Categories: Transportation

One thought on “Transportation: Council Clears Path for Streetcar Lawsuit”

  1. Thomas Martinsen says:

    This claim is laughable. A motorcyclist who does not take a proper angle over a train track will crash the bike.

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