Brief Fact Summary. The husband of the Plaintiff, Ms. Perkins (Plaintiff), was a passenger in a car when a train at a railway crossing struck the car. The Plaintiff’s husband was killed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The defendant’s negligence must be a substantial factor in the cause of the harm for liability to attach.
The Plaintiff’s husband was killed in a collision between the car he was a passenger in and a freight train operated by the Defendant, New Orleans Railroad Co. At the intersection of the road and rail crossing where the accident occurred, a large warehouse obstructed the view of both the car’s driver and the train’s engineer and brakeman. The train’s engineer and brakeman were aware of the obstruction and while approaching the intersection rang the train’s bell and whistle and put its headlights on. The intersection also had warning signals to warn drivers of approaching trains. These signals were operating at the time of the accident. Of the three railway employees in the forward engine of the train only two, the brakeman and a fireman saw the car emerge from the intersection. The third, the engineer did not see the car due to the obstructed view, but applied the emergency brakes when his companions alerted him to the presence of the car. At the time of the accident the train
was between 30 to 60 feet from the car. Both parties have conceded that the driver of the car, who was also killed, was negligent in driving upon the train track with the signal lights on. The parties have also conceded that the train was traveling at 37 miles per hour when the self-imposed speed limit for the intersection was 25 miles per hour.
Issue. Whether the negligence of the Defendant was a substantial factor in causing the accident.
Held. The train’s speed was not a substantial factor in the cause of the accident.
Discussion. By traveling twelve miles over the self-imposed speed limit, the engineer was negligent. The engineer testified that even at a rate of 25 mph, the train could not have avoided the car. Based on this testimony, the court finds that the speed of the train was not a substantial factor in the crash. Because the accident would have occurred even if the train had been traveling within the speed limit, the negligence of the train’s operator is not a substantial factor in the collision.