Maimed Violinist Wins $30M Suit

Rachel Barton walked into court Monday showing the strain of her four-year ordeal, but left wearing a smile of relief, after a jury decided the prize-winning violinist was due $30 million for the train accident that cost her a leg and part of a foot. CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports.

"This lawsuit focused on taking care of me for the rest of my life," she told reporters.

Barton was a child prodigy and on her way to making a mark on the world stage before the 1995 tragedy. The accident happened when Barton was trying to exit a Metra commuter train. The strap of the violin case she carried on her shoulder was caught in the closing doors and the train began to move before she could free herself.

Barton, 24, was dragged 366 feet down the tracks from a suburban Winnetka commuter platform. She sued Metra and the Chicago and Northwestern Transportation Co., now owned by Union Pacific.

Barton said that the strap pinned her. Railroad attorneys said she kept clutching the strap because her 200-year-old Amati violin was worth $500,000. The railroad argued that Barton was to blame for trying to save her violin.

On the stand, Barton acknowledged that she didn't immediately realize her danger.

"Nobody knows, how would we behave in a circumstance like this," said juror Alina Andrzejewski. "It's just impossible."

The jury's $30 million award was much less than the $600 million Barton's attorneys had asked for and much more than the $5 million the railroad recommended during the trial.

"This may just be a trend in our society that personal responsibility for one's actions is no longer the order of the day," said Metra attorney C. Barry Montgomery.

Montgomery also said that the jurors -- some of whom hugged Barton and kissed her on the cheek as they left the courthouse -- seemed to be swayed by sympathy for her condition rather than the facts of the case.

Barton, who uses crutches or a wheelchair and has a prosthetic left leg, told jurors, "I'm just one big Frankenstein monster," in describing her injuries.

In closing arguments, Barton attorney Robert Clifford called the accident "an event waiting to happen." He pointed to 14 riders who have been pinned between train doors in similar circumstances over the last five years.

Railroad attorneys noted that none of the 14 was seriously hurt.

Clifford said no amount of zeroes would bring his client's life back to where it was. Now, Barton said, it's time to move on.

"In the end, as it was in the beginning of this terrible journey, I hope to be known for my music and not my injuries," she told reporters.

Barton in 1992 became the first American and the youngest person ever to win first prize in the Bach Competition in Leipzig, Germany. She was the only American laureate of the 1993 Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels.

She also has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Lyric Oera Orchestra.