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Pardon Me Boy, Is That a Federally Approved Railroad Crossing?
Description Arkansas high court held that once a railroad crossing has complied with the Federal Railroad Safety Act standards, a railroad cannot be found negligent with respect to the warning devices it has in place to deter accidents at that crossing.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence, Federal Preemption
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Jonathan Sharp collided with a Union Pacific train at a street crossing in Marianna, Arkansas. He sued the railroad for negligence (1) for failure to maintain adequate warning devices and (2) for failing to keep a proper lookout for vehicles at the crossing. Jury found the railroad negligent. The trial court entered a partial summary judgment in favor of the railroad on the issue of whether it placed adequate warning devices at the crossing.
Decision Reversed in part and affirmed in part. "We find that ... a jury could have concluded that the railroad breached the standard of care by failing to keep a proper lookout for vehicles entering the ... crossing." Further, "Sharp presented substantial evidence of a causal connection between his damages and the railroad's actions." Hence, the case was properly submitted to the jury on the issue of negligence for proper lookout, but the trial court erred in some of its jury instructions and so must be reversed. The trial court was correct that the Federal Railroad Safety Act, which dictated the placement of the warning device that was in place at the crossing removes "the railroad's decision-making authority to determine what type of warning devices are needed at a particular crossing." The court held that "federal funds have been expended to implement the installation of warning devices at a particular intersection." Hence, the railroad could not be found negligent with respect to its warning devices.
Citation Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Sharp, ---S.W.2d--- (1997 WL 621409, Sup. Ct., Ark.)
952 S.W.2d 658 (Sup. Ct., Ark., 1997)

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