Balt. & O. R. Co. v. Goodman

275 U.S. 66, 48 S. Ct. 24 (1927)



If a driver cannot be sure  whether a train is dangerously near he must stop and get out of his vehicle, although obviously he will not often be required to do more than to stop and look. If he relies upon not hearing the train or any signal and takes no further precaution he does so at his own risk.


Respondent widow filed an action for negligence against petitioner railroad for the death of her husband, a truck driver, who failed to see another train approaching because a section house blocked his view. He slowed the truck that he was driving but did not come to a stop when he did not hear a train. By the time he could see the train, he could no longer stop.The railroad's defense was contributory negligence because it was daylight and the husband was familiar with the crossing. The railroad requested a directed verdict, which was denied. A verdict was rendered for the widow, which the appellate court affirmed. On further appeal, the Court reversed the appellate court's judgment.



Was there contributory negligence on the part of petitioner's husband?




Petitioner's husband knew that he had to stop for the train, and if he could not be sure whether a train was dangerously near, he had to stop and get out of his vehicle, if necessary, to look. If he relied upon not hearing the train and took no further precaution, he did so at his own risk. If he found himself in an emergency, it was his own fault that he did not reduce his speed earlier or stop. In reversing, the Court stated that it was dealing with a standard of conduct that was clear and should be laid down by the courts.

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