Sheehan v. St. Paul & Duluth Ry. Co.


Sheen (Plaintiff) was walking (trespassing) on defendant’s railroad and his foot got caught.  P was not able to jar it loose, and a passing train (Defendant) came by. The train drove over the P’s foot.

–  The plaintiff was neither a passenger nor one in a public place, in which public were licensed to travel, he was an intruder on the tracks of the defendant.


Does a railway company owe a duty to a trespasser on its tracks?




When the act is unauthorized (trespass) and the temerity, the risk, and all positive duty of care for his, rests with the trespasser.

Court reasoning

–          A trespasser is not an outlaw, and if wantonly injured in the operation of the railroad, the company is answerable in damages.

–          Courts do not impose a duty of a train company to foresee every possible situation where danger may arise.

  • Has a right, and is not bound to foresee trespasser on their tracks.

–          No constructive notice (public place, per say) which to base the obligation of constant lookout for his presence there, and no actual notice up to the moment, the company sees them there.

–          This excludes all inquiries in respect to the character of the roadbed, locomotive, brakes, train, drivers (etc…) because no Breach of positive duty is involved.


–          A land owner does not owe a duty of care to a trespasser of whom the landowner has no actual or constructive notice.

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