An owner of property is not limited in the uses of his property by its proximity to a railroad, or subject to other risks than those which come from the careful operation of the road or unavoidable accident.
A property owner brought an action against defendant railroad company to recover for destruction by fire of products stored adjacent to the railroad's right of way. The negligence of the railroad was the immediate cause of the destruction of the property. The property was placed by its owner near the right of way of the railroad, but on the owner's land. The Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit certified questions to the Supreme Court of the United States concerning whether the property owner could be found contributorily negligent.
Is the property owner contributorily negligent?
The court held that the rights of one man in the use of his property could not be limited by the wrongs of another. The doctrine of contributory negligence was entirely out of place. Although operation of a railroad was a legitimate use of property and other property in its vicinity may be subject to risks by it, a risk from wrongful operation was not one of them. Therefore, an owner of property was not limited in the uses of his property by its proximity to a railroad or subject to other risks than those which came from the careful operation of the road or unavoidable accident.