Baltimore & O.R. Co. v. Goodman

275 U.S. 66 (1927)



If a driver cannot be sure otherwise 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.


Petitioner railroad sought review of a judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which sustained a recovery for the death of the husband of respondent widow that was caused by the alleged negligence of the railroad. The widow was also the administratrix of her husband's estate, and the action was removed from an Ohio state court on the ground of diversity of citizenship. The husband could not see if a train was coming at a grade crossing 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 not stop and was killed. His widow filed a negligence action. 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.


Whether a man who could not see if a train was coming at a grade crossing, but crossed anyway and was killed, was contributorly negligent?




On further appeal, the Court stated that no evidence relieved the husband from responsibility for his own death. He 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.
The Court reversed the appellate court's judgment.

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