Legal Memorandum: Standard of Care for a Railroad in MN

Issue: Under Minnesota law, what is the standard of care to be followed by railroads at crossings?

Area of Law: Aviation & Transportation Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Due care; Railroad; To avoid accidents at crossings
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 23 N.W.2d 174; 40 N.W.2d 626
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2000

           Minnesota law governing the standard of care for a railroad is well established:


A railroad company is required to exercise due care to avoid accidents at crossings.  Due care is the requirement under all circumstances.  As [the Minnesota Supreme Court has] held time and again, due care is such care as is commensurate with the danger of the situation and is measured by the exigencies thereof as they were, or should have been, known to the actor.  Requirements prescribed by statute, or by administrative order under statutory authorization, are specific and minimum requirements, which may satisfy the requirements of due care, but not necessarily so; and where they do not, the actor must take such additional precautions as due care may require.  It is well settled that the rule applies to railroad companies with respect to the care required of them to avoid crossing accidents.

Leisy v. Northern Pac. Ry., 230 Minn. 61, 40 N.W.2d 626, 629 (1950) (citation omitted).  Such actions must be decided on a case-by-case basis, and when the evidence allows conflicting inferences as to whether the railroad exercised due care with regard to an accident at a railroad crossing, […]

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