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Baltimore and Ohio R.R. v. Goodman

Melissa A. Hale

ProfessorMelissa A. Hale

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

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Baltimore and Ohio R.R. v. Goodman
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    Brief Fact Summary. Goodman (Plaintiff) was struck and killed by Baltimore and Ohio R.R.’s (Defendant’s) train when Plaintiff crossed a train track. Defendant argued that Plaintiff’s own negligence caused his death.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The question of due care is generally left to the jury. When the standard is clear, the court should make the decision. However, “when the standard is clear, the Courts should lay it down once and for all.”

    Facts. Plaintiff was driving his automobile truck and was killed by a train operated by Defendant running at a rate of speed not less than sixty miles per hour. Plaintiff’s estate argued that he had no practical view beyond a section house until he was about twenty feet from the rail, or twelve feet from danger. Defendant’s engine was obscured by said section house. Plaintiff had been driving at ten or twelve miles per hour, but slowed down to five or six miles per hour as he neared the crossing. The railroad line was straight, it was daylight, and Plaintiff was familiar with the crossing. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant. Defendant argued that Plaintiff’s own negligence caused his death. Defendant requested a directed verdict, however it was denied. The jury found for the Plaintiff. This decision was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals. Defendant appealed.

    Issue. Not knowing whether or not a train was coming, did Plaintiff assume the risk when he crossed the train track without first exiting his vehicle and checking?

    Held. Yes. Judgment reversed.
    * Plaintiff is responsible for his own death. Plaintiff knows that he must stop for the train. If a driver cannot be sure if a train is dangerously near, then he must stop and get out of his vehicle to check. If he does not, he fails to meet the standard of conduct required of a careful driver and is responsible for his injuries.
    * The question of due care very is left to the jury. However, “when the standard is clear, the Courts should lay it down once and for all.”

    Discussion. In this case, the court found that Plaintiff assumed the risk of being hit by a train when he failed to stop and get out of his vehicle to check for an approaching train. The court held that the jury should not decide the standard of care in this case because there is a clear duty to get out of the vehicle and check for trains.


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