Legal Memorandum: Duties of a Railroad in MN

Issue: Under Minnesota law, does a railroad have a duty to place a signal on the end of a train that is being backed?

Area of Law: Aviation & Transportation Law, Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Duty of care; Railroad
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 159 Minn. 308; 175 N.W. 99; 13 F.2d 377; 199 N.W. 3; 194 N.W. 639; 141 N.W. 854; 122 Minn. 44
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2000

           As a general matter, a railroad’s duty of care when pushing cars or backing through a railroad crossing requires a light on the end car or a flagman.  39 Dunnell Minn. Digest Railroads § 7.05(e) (4th ed. 1998).  "Whether reasonable care on the part of the railway company required a flagman or some other means of warning to travelers of the approach of trains over the crossing where [the subject] accident occurred depends upon the character of the crossing."  Northern Pac. Ry. v. Moe, 13 F.2d 377, 378 (8th Cir. 1926).  The question whether a defendant was negligent by failing to post a flagman at the crossing at which the accident occurred is a question for the jury.  Moody v. Canadian N. Ry., 156 Minn. 211, 194 N.W. 639, 640 (1923).  Generally, in order for the jury to find that a flagman was required to comply with the standard of care, there must be a finding that the particular crossing was "more than ordinarily hazardous—as, for instance, that it is in a thickly populated portion of a town or city, or that . . . the crossing is a much-traveled one, and the noise of approaching trains is rendered indistinct and the ordinary signals difficult to be heard . . . or by reason of some such like cause."  Moe, 13 F.2d at 379.  The test is whether the crossing was peculiarly dangerous so as to render a flagman necessary.  Id.  That issue is for the jury.  Id. (holding that it was not error to […]

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