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St. Louis-San Francisco Ry. Co. v. Earl

Supreme Court of Florida, en Banc
Jan 5, 1951
49 So. 2d 324 (Fla. 1951)


December 1, 1950. Rehearing Denied January 5, 1951.

Appeal from the Court of Record for Escambia County, Ernest E. Mason, J.

Watson Brown, Pensacola, for appellant.

Philip D. Beall and Jones Latham, all of Pensacola, for appellees.

October 29, 1948, Tenner Baker and his wife, Nannie Baker were killed at a grade crossing in Escambia County. The motor vehicle in which they were riding collided with a locomotive and train of defendant's. These suits were brought by the administrators of the Estates of Tenner and Nannie Baker. At the trial there was judgment for the plaintiff in each case and the defendant appealed.

The only question we deem necessary to consider is whether or not on the showing made by the record, the trial court committed error in refusing a new trial and a directed verdict for the defendant.

Summarized the evidence shows that the collision occurred near Ensley, Florida, about nine o'clock in the morning on a clear day, at a rural crossing where the railroad was straight and vision was unobstructed for 1700 feet. It was a settlement road and crossed the railroad at right angles or nearly so and the Bakers crossed it frequently. Tenner Baker was driving his automobile at the time of the accident, was familiar with the crossing, in fact, his home was about 1000 feet from it. The only eye witnesses to the tragedy were the fireman and the engineer, both testified that the whistle was sounding automatically, that the bell was ringing and that the train was moving about 45 miles per hour.

The engineer and the fireman both testified that Baker was driving West, that when his automobile was almost across the track it stopped and began backing instead of continuing ahead, that Nannie Baker started getting out of the car and that if it had continued going ahead it would have cleared the track before the train hit it. They also testified that the instant Baker's car stopped the engineer applied the brakes and did all in his power to avoid the collision. When the car stopped and backed up the engineer was about 400 to 500 feet North of the crossing, that the brakes were applied so abruptly and forcefully that the wheels on the engine and tender were locked, that it was not possible to stop the train sooner, that it was forced forward by its own momentum. These facts are corroborated by the testimony of other witnesses.

Under such a state of facts we think the proximate cause of the accident was the stalling of the automobile on the crossing. Baker had plenty of time to cross the railroad had his car not stalled. The engineer was proceeding cautiously and did all in his power to stop his train when the danger appeared. He is not charged with negligence for not anticipating that Baker's car would stall. The track was level where the accident took place and he was warranted in assuming that Baker was in possession of his faculties, would avoid the train or would not attempt to cross ahead of it unless he had plenty of time to clear. Baker nor the engineer anticipated that the car would stall, but having done so, we do not think defendant can be held responsible.

The engineer unquestionably had a duty to do all he could to protect the Bakers when he saw that their car had stalled but under the facts in this case his duty commenced at that point. Baker was under the obligation to look and listen for the train and the circumstances may require him to stop, look and listen. While at railroad crossings the rights of trains and travelers are reciprocal, it is as much the duty of a traveler to look for trains as it is the duty of the railroad company to take every precaution to protect them when found to be in peril. Louisville N.R. Co. v. Harrison, 78 Fla. 381, 83 So. 89; Bagdad Land Lumber Co. v. Moneyway, 80 Fla. 784, 86 So. 687; Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Price, Fla., 46 So.2d 481; Southern Ry. v. Hale, 222 Ala. 489, 133 So. 8; Louisville N.R. Co. v. Griffin, 240 So. 213, 198 So. 345; Seaboard Air Line R. Co. v. Boles, 160 Fla. 910, 37 So.2d 578.

The last cited cases define the reciprocal duties of travelers and agents of the railroad company in cases like this and we think, conclude the case at bar against the plaintiffs' claims. The trial court was accordingly in error for refusing to direct a verdict for defendants and grant a new trial. His judgment is accordingly reversed.



ADAMS, C.J., and ROBERTS, J., dissent.

SEBRING, J., not participating because of illness.

Summaries of

St. Louis-San Francisco Ry. Co. v. Earl

Supreme Court of Florida, en Banc
Jan 5, 1951
49 So. 2d 324 (Fla. 1951)
Case details for

St. Louis-San Francisco Ry. Co. v. Earl

Case Details


Court:Supreme Court of Florida, en Banc

Date published: Jan 5, 1951


49 So. 2d 324 (Fla. 1951)

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