Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. v. Goodman

(US 1927)

Procedural History: Goodman’s widow brought suit on the railroad company for causing his death by running him down at a grade crossing. Defendant claims that Goodman’s own negligence caused his death. Defendant moved for directed verdict and was refused. Plaintiff received verdict which was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals.

Facts: Goodman was driving a truck east and was killed by a train running southwest across the road at a speed of at least 60 mph. The line was straight, but there was a section house blocking the view from the intersection, which was about 243 feet north of the crossing. He did not have full view of the train tracks until 20 feet before the first rail, and still could not see the train engine until about 12 feet before the crossing. Goodman was driving at 10-12 mph before approaching the crossing and was then moving at about 5-6 mph once he got to 40 feet before the tracks.

Issue: Is a person driving across a railroad track negligent for putting themselves into a reasonably dangerous situation?

Application: Goodman took responsibility for his own death by not taking proper precautions such as not getting out of his vehicle to check if a train was approaching, or not slowing down more or stopping before the tracks.

Holding: Cases of negligence usually decided by a jury, but when the standard is clear it should be decided by the courts.

Goodman could have stopped instead of slowing down and could have seen the train.

He had the opportunity to look and did not and so this is why there is a directed verdict establishing his negligence, and therefore, his ability to recover.


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