Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. v. Goodman
275 U.S. 66 (1927)

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  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. v. Goodman, 275 U.S. 66 (1927)

Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. v. Goodman

No. 58

Argued October 20, 1927

Decided October 31, 1927

275 U.S. 66

Syllabus

1. One who drives upon a railroad track relying upon not having heard a train or any signal and taking no further precaution does so at his own risk. If he cannot otherwise be sure whether a train is dangerously near, the driver must stop and get out of his vehicle before attempting to cross. P. 275 U. S. 69.

2. In an action for negligence, the question of due care is not left to the jury when resolved by a clear standard of conduct which should be laid down by the courts. P. 275 U. S. 70.

10 F.2d 58 reversed.

Certiorari, 271 U.S. 658, to a judgment of the circuit court of appeals sustaining a recovery for death caused by alleged negligence of the railroad in an action by the widow and administratrix of the deceased. The action was removed from an Ohio state court on the ground of diversity of citizenship.

Page 275 U. S. 69

Primary Holding
While the jury usually decides what reasonable care would be, courts can make that decision when the standard is clear.
Facts
Goodman reduced speed to 10 mph as he was driving his truck toward a blind railroad crossing that lacked signals and guard rails. When he did see the train, he was unable to stop and was struck and killed. Goodman's family brought a wrongful death claim against Baltimore & Ohio R.R., which responded that he had died as a result of his own negligence. However, the jury did not direct a verdict for the railroad, and the jury eventually found for Goodman's family.

Opinions

Majority

  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Author)
  • William Howard Taft
  • Willis Van Devanter
  • James Clark McReynolds
  • Louis Dembitz Brandeis
  • Pierce Butler
  • Edward Terry Sanford
  • Harlan Fiske Stone

When the evidence shows that an accident victim did not take the reasonable precautions to protect himself from a known risk, a directed verdict is proper. In this situation, Goodman knew that he needed to yield to the train and that the area was potentially dangerous. He could have been expected to completely stop his vehicle and get out if needed to determine whether a train was approaching. Failing to stop in this type of situation was a clear example of negligence and the proximate cause of his death.

Recused

  • George Sutherland (Author)

Case Commentary

It was obvious in this case that a reasonable person should have checked for a train in the area around the tracks, so this issue could be decided by the court and did not need to be submitted to the jury.

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