Legal Memorandum: Railroad Crossing Negligence in MN

Issue: Under Minnesota law, is a railroad’s failure to sound an audible warning at a crossing evidence of negligence?

Area of Law: Aviation & Transportation Law, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Negligence; Evidence; Failure to sound an audible warning
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 258 Minn. 379; 184 F.2d 472
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2000

           When the evidence shows that the defendant’s employee who was riding on the back platform of a train as it approached the crossing failed to blow a whistle or sound a bell, there is evidence from which a jury could find negligence.  Pirner v. Northern Pac. Ry., 258 Minn. 379, 104 N.W.2d 175, 179 (1960).  The issue whether the defendant sounded a proper warning signal is also a factual issue that must be submitted to the jury when the evidence conflicts.  Ohrmann v. Chicago & N.W. Ry., 223 Minn. 580, 27 N.W.2d 806, 812 (1947).

When competent witnesses testify that they did not hear a bell or whistle sound, such evidence is probative even though negative in nature.  Id., 27 N.W.2d at 812.  In order to prove the absence of sound, the plaintiff must submit evidence of the witness’ proximity to the location, his or her degree of attention, the condition of his or her sense of hearing and similar circumstances.  Id.  That is, the plaintiff must show that if a whistle or bell had sounded, it is more likely than not that the witness would have heard it.  Id.  Upon this showing, the rule is that evidence that a witness who was in a position to hear a bell or whistle did not hear it is substantial evidence that no signal was given.  Northern Pac. Ry. v. Haugan, 184 F.2d 472, 476 (8th Cir. 1950) (Minnesota law).  When witnesses’ testimony […]

Subscribe to Litigation Pathfinder

To get the full-text of this Legal Memorandum ... and more!

(Month-to-month and annual subscriptions available)