California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

801. Duty to Comply With Safety Regulations

An [ordinance/regulation] of the [insert name of entity] provides as follows: [insert text of ordinance or regulation]

Railroad companies must obey safety regulations. Regulations state only the minimum measure of care required of a railroad company. Particular conditions and situations may require a company to use more care than the regulations require.

New September 2003

Directions for Use

Regulations adopted by the Secretary of Transportation pursuant to the Federal Railroad Safety Act preempt state common-law negligence claims based on general allegations of “excessive speed.” (CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Easterwood (1993) 507 U.S. 658, 675 [113 S.Ct. 1732, 123 L.Ed.2d 387].) Also, claims alleging inadequate warning devices are preempted where federally funded grade crossing improvements have been installed. (Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. Shanklin (2000) 529 U.S. 344, 359 [120 S.Ct. 1467, 146 L.Ed.2d 374].) This instruction is not intended to apply to situations in which a railroad’s compliance with these federal safety regulations would preempt state law negligence claims.

Sources and Authority

  • “ ‘ “It is well settled that such statutory regulations constitute only the minimum measure of care required by the railroad, and it is usually a matter for the jury to determine whether something more than the minimum was required under the evidence in the case.” ’ A railroad company is not necessarily free from negligence, even though it may have literally complied with safety statutes or rules. The circumstances may require it to do more.” (Hogue v. Southern Pacific Co. (1969) 1 Cal.3d 253, 258 [81 Cal.Rptr. 765, 460 P.2d 965], internal citations omitted; Peri v. Los Angeles Junction Ry. Co. (1943) 22 Cal.2d 111, 126 [137 P.2d 441].)
  • “If the peculiar characteristics of a crossing call for the installation of automatic protection—or the upgrading of existing automatic protection—the railroad may be guilty of negligence in failing to provide such protection.” (Romo v. Southern Pacific Transportation Co. (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 909, 916 [139 Cal.Rptr. 787], internal citations omitted.)
  • “We hold that . . . federal regulations adopted by the Secretary of Transportation pre-empt respondent’s negligence action only insofar as it asserts that petitioner’s train was traveling at an excessive speed.” (CSX Transportation, Inc., supra, 507 U.S. at p. 676.)
  • “When the [Federal Highway Administration] approves a crossing improvement project and the State installs the warning devices using federal funds, [federal regulations] establish a federal standard for the adequacy of those devices that displaces state tort law addressing the same subject.” (Norfolk Southern Railway Co., supra, 529 U.S. at p. 357.)

Secondary Sources

California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) Railroad Crossings, § 12.4

2 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 23, Carriers, § 23.25[4] (Matthew Bender)

42 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 485, Railroads, § 485.64 (Matthew Bender)