Keffe v. Milwaukee & S. P. Ry. Co.

21 Minn. 207 (1875)



A railroad company is not required to make its land a safe play-ground for children. It has the same right to maintain and use its turntable that any landowner has to use his property. It is not an insurer of the lives or limbs of young children who play upon its premises. But when it sets before young children a temptation which it has reason to believe will lead them into danger, it must use ordinary care to protect them from harm. What would be proper care in any case must, in general, be a question for the jury, upon all the circumstances of the case.


An infant got injured playing on the railroad company's turn-table. The injury resulted in the infant's leg being amputated. The infant's guardian brought action to recover damages for injuries sustained. The granted the railroad company's motion for judgment on the pleadings. It determined that the infant was a mere trespasser who had no more right than any other trespasser to require the railroad to exercise care to protect him. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Minnesota.


Could the infant recover damages?




The court found that the infant occupied a very different position from that of a mere voluntary trespasser. To treat the infant as a voluntary trespasser was to ignore the averments of the complaint; that the turn-table, which was in a public, open, and frequented place, was, when left unfastened, very attractive, and dangerous to young children. The complaint also averred that the railroad knew that many children were in the habit of going upon the turn-table to play. The court concluded that the infant was induced to come upon the railroad's turn-table by the railroad's own conduct, and that the turntable was a hidden danger. The court held that the railroad was bound to use care to protect children from the danger from which they could not be expected to protect themselves. There was no allegation of contributory negligence or negligence on the part of the infant's parents.

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