When Is the Plaintiff's Negligence the Sole Proximate Cause of a Standing Train Accident ?
In Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Johnston, 74 So. 2d 689 (Fla. 1954), the Court affirmed judgments against a railroad arising out of an accident with a standing train where the plaintiff alleged that it was dark and raining, and that the crossing was obstructed by trees and underbrush.
The railroad maintained that the plaintiff's negligence was the sole proximate cause of the accident.
Rather than preclude recovery based on the standing train doctrine, this Court opted to look at the circumstances surrounding the accident:
The answer to the question [of whether the plaintiff's negligence was the sole proximate cause of the accident] turns on the proof as to:
(1) whether or not the crossing was hazardous;
(2) visibility at the time and place of the accident;
(3) location of the locomotive and freight cars at the time of the accident;
(4) condition of the approach to the crossing. Id. at 689-90.
Court further narrowed the doctrine in Horton v. Louisville & N.R. Co., 61 So. 2d 406 (Fla. 1952), in setting aside the trial court's grant of a motion to dismiss in favor of the railroad.
In Horton the plaintiff, whose son was killed when he drove his motor bike underneath a standing box car, alleged that the light on the motor bike did not reflect high enough to show the box car standing across the highway.
See also Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay Ry. v. Church, 212 F.2d 688, 691 (5th Cir. 1954) (holding that circumstances affecting the plaintiff's opportunity to observe the crossing created a jury question as to whether the railroad's stopping and standing of the train constituted negligence).