CACI No. 805. Installing Warning Systems

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2023 edition)

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805.Installing Warning Systems
Railroad companies must post signs or other devices that give the public
reasonable warning of the presence of its tracks. A railroad company
must use reasonable care in the design, installation, operation, and
maintenance of its warning signals and protective systems. The amount
of care that is reasonable depends on the particular characteristics of
each crossing.
New September 2003
Directions for Use
This instruction may not be appropriate in certain cases. 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, 353 [120 S.Ct. 1467, 146 L.Ed.2d 374].)
Sources and Authority
“[O]nce the [Federal Highway Administration] has funded the crossing
improvement and the warning devices are actually installed and operating, the
regulation ‘displace[s] state and private decision-making authority by
establishing a federal-law requirement that certain devices be installed or federal
approval obtained.’ (Norfolk Southern Railway Co., supra, 529 U.S. at p. 354,
internal citation omitted.)
“It should be noted that nothing prevents a State from revisiting the adequacy of
devices installed using federal funds. States are free to install more protective
devices at such crossings with their own funds or with additional funding from
the FHWA. What States cannot do - once they have installed federally funded
devices at a particular crossing - is hold the railroad responsible for the
adequacy of those devices.” (Norfolk Southern Railway Co., supra, 529 U.S. at
p. 358.)
“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 citation omitted.)
“Whether a railroad is negligent in the design and maintenance of the crossing is
a question of fact for the jury.” (Wilkinson v. Southern Pacific Co. (1964) 224
Cal.App.2d 478, 487-488 [36 Cal.Rptr. 689], internal citation omitted.)
“The defendant, having undertaken to warn travelers of the approach of its trains
by the use of a wigwag, was under a duty to use reasonable care in the
construction and maintenance of the signal system lest the appearance of safety
created by the presence of the device constitute a trap for persons relying upon it
for protection.” (Startup v. Pacific Electric Ry. Co. (1947) 29 Cal.2d 866, 869
[180 P.2d 896].)
“Whatever may be the purpose of maintaining an automatic wig-wag signal at a
railroad crossing, even though it be intended to merely warn travelers of the
approach of trains, common justice demands that it shall be so constructed and
maintained that it will not lure travelers on the highway into danger. It follows
that a company which does maintain such a defective system will be held liable
for injuries sustained as the result of those imperfections, regardless of whether
the system was designed to warn travelers of the approach of trains rather than
to inform them of the danger from stationary cars which block the crossings.”
(Mallett v. Southern Pacific Co. (1937) 20 Cal.App.2d 500, 509 [68 P.2d 281].)
Secondary Sources
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§ 1039, 1239, 1240,
California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) Railroad Crossings, §§ 12.8-12.9
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)

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