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Train Crossing on Private Road Not Subject to Warning or Obstruction Safeguards
Description Couple was killed when they drove in front of a train on a private road. They did not yield for the train, which did not blow a whistle at the crossing. Court held the jury could find it was not negligent for the railroad not to use the safety procedures required of it at public road crossings.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence, Railroads
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Ball and Ellis had driven to the end of a dirt road on private property at night (where they were engaged "in an adulterous affair"). When driving out of the property, both were killed when the car was hit by a train. Ball, the driver, did not yield. There was no safety equipment at the train crossing and the train did not blow its horn before entering the crossing. In a wrongful death action, the heirs contended the railroad violated its duty, which is specified in Arkansas law, to keep all railroad crossings at public roads free of vegetation that would obscure the view of drivers and must blow a whistle at least a quarter mile before reaching the crossing. The railroad contended it had not violated its duty, with which the jury agreed. Heirs appealed.
Court of Appeals Decision Affirmed. "The [jury] instructions on negligence ... incorporated the concept that if Union Pacific did not use ordinary care in its operation of the whistle and that breach of duty resulted in the wrongful death of Ellis, the railroad should be liable...." The jury found that the railroad crossing is private, not public. "It is located on a dirt road on private property and dead-ends at a private pond. The road is not maintained by any governmental authority and does not seem to have been the object of regular use by the public."
Citation Pittman v. Frazer, ---F.3d--- (1997 WL 694307, 8th Cir.)

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