California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017)

806. Comparative Fault—Duty to Approach Crossing With Care

Download PDF
806.Comparative Fault—Duty to Approach Crossing With Care
A driver approaching a railroad crossing is required to use reasonable
care to discover whether a train is approaching. The amount of care
that is reasonable will depend on the circumstances. A railroad track is
itself a warning of danger. If the driver’s view of approaching trains is
blocked, he or she must use greater care than when the view is clear.
If a bell or signal has been placed to warn drivers of danger, a driver is
not required to use as much care as when there are no such warnings.
However, even if the warning devices are not activated, a driver must
use reasonable care in looking and listening for approaching trains.
New September 2003; Revised December 2009
Directions for Use
For an instruction regarding the prima facie speed limits set by Vehicle Code
section 22352, see CACI No. 707, Speed Limit. For an instruction on the duty of
care of a passenger, see CACI No. 711, The Passenger’s Duty of Care for Own
Safety. For instructions on negligence per se, see CACI Nos. 418 to 421.
Sources and Authority
• Vehicle Proceeding at Railroad Crossing. Vehicle Code section 22451.
Speed Limit at Railroad Crossing. Vehicle Code section 22352(a)(1).
• “[T]hat the driver’s view is somewhat obstructed does not make him
contributorily negligent as a matter of law; whether his failure to stop, the place
from which he looks and the character and extent of the obstruction to his view
are such that a reasonably prudent person would not have so conducted himself
are questions for the jury in determining whether he was guilty of contributory
negligence.” (Lucas v. Southern Pacific Co. (1971) 19 Cal.App.3d 124, 139 [96
Cal.Rptr. 356].)
• “A railroad track is itself a warning of danger and a driver intending to cross
must avail himself of every opportunity to look and listen; if there are
obstructions to the view, he is required to take greater care.” (Wilkinson v.
Southern Pacific Co. (1964) 224 Cal.App.2d 478, 488 [36 Cal.Rptr. 689],
internal citation omitted.)
• “A railroad company will not be permitted to encourage persons to relax their
vigil concerning the dangers that lurk in railroad crossings by assuring them,
through the erection of safety devices, that the danger has been removed or
minimized, and, at the same time, to hold them to the same degree of care as
would be required if those devices had not been provided.” (Will v. Southern
Pacific Co. (1941) 18 Cal.2d 468, 474 [116 P.2d 44], internal citation omitted.)
• “[A] driver may not cross tracks in reliance upon the safety appliances installed
by the railroad with complete disregard for his own safety and recover damages
for injuries sustained by reason of his own failure to use reasonable care.” (Will,
supra, 18 Cal.2d at p. 475.)
• “Violation of the railroad’s statutory duty to sound bell and whistle at a
highway crossing does not absolve a driver from his failure to look and listen
and, if necessitated by circumstances such as obstructed vision, even to stop.”
(Wilkinson, supra, 224 Cal.App.2d at p. 489.)
• “It is settled that a railroad may not encourage persons traveling on highways to
rely on safety devices and then hold them to the same degree of care as if the
devices were not present.” (Startup v. Pacific Electric Ry. Co. (1947) 29 Cal.2d
866, 871 [180 P.2d 896].)
• “When a flagman or mechanical warning device has been provided at a railroad
crossing, the driver of an automobile is thereby encouraged to relax his
vigilance, and, in using other means to discover whether there is danger of
approaching trains, he is not required to exercise the same quantum of care as
would otherwise be necessary.” (Spendlove v. Pacific Electric Ry. Co. (1947) 30
Cal.2d 632, 634 [184 P.2d 873], internal citations omitted.)
• An instruction that a driver must stop, look, and listen when his or her view is
obstructed was held prejudicially erroneous in Anello v. Southern Pacific Co.
(1959) 174 Cal.App.2d 317, 322 [344 P.2d 843].
Secondary Sources
California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) Railroad Crossings, §§ 12.10–12.12
2Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 23, Carriers, § 23.27 (Matthew Bender)
42 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 485, Railroads § 485.67
(Matthew Bender)
807–899. Reserved for Future Use