Seaboard Coast Line R. Co. v. West, 60230

Decision Date16 July 1980
Docket NumberNo. 60230,60230
PartiesSEABOARD COAST LINE RAILROAD COMPANY et al. v. WEST.
CourtGeorgia Court of Appeals

Allen B. Keeble, Charles Jerry Willis, LaGrange, for appellants.

Thomas Bentley, Atlanta, James H. Fort, Columbus, for appellee.

BANKE, Judge.

The appellants' train struck and killed appellee West's wife and infant son; and in his suit against the railroad and its engineer for the wrongful death of the child, a jury verdict in his favor was returned for $50,000. Appellants' motions for directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict were denied, and they appeal. Held :

1. Testimony of four eyewitnesses established without dispute that the deaths occurred on March 25, 1978, at about 11:30 a. m. The train was traveling approximately 48 miles per hour as it proceeded through Woodland, Georgia, a small municipal corporation with two streets crossing a set of parallel tracks. This speed was not in violation of any ordinance in effect at that time. The train had visibility of some 400 feet from the crossing involved and, on approaching it, was blowing the horn and had its headlights on. The crossing was protected by flashing red lights, which were functioning, and possibly a bell. As the train rounded the curve, its engineer and brakeman and two other witnesses saw a woman and child walking down the sidewalk toward the crossing. The woman looked up and saw the train, caught the child by his hand, and started running toward the track. The engineer began blowing the horn rapidly to warn her of danger. When she continued running toward the tracks, pulling the child behind her, he activated the emergency braking system; but the train did not stop before striking the woman and child. According to one eyewitness, the child actually backed away from the tracks, but the woman "just snatched him and carried him on." The victims had crossed over one set of tracks to reach the main track, where they were struck.

The railroad contends that the mother's negligence was the sole proximate cause of the child's death in that her action in circumventing the crossing safety devices, designed to prevent the disaster which occurred, constituted an unforeseeable intervening act sufficient to relieve it of liability as a matter of law. Compare McNeely v. Harrison, 138 Ga.App. 310, 226 S.E.2d 112 (1976). We do not agree, however, that the mere presence of safety precautions such as automatic signalling devices renders the railroad free from negligence as a matter of law, or relieves it from adopting such other measures as public safety and common prudence dictate. "This is especially true when the evidence shows that a train was running at an undue and highly dangerous rate of speed over a much frequented crossing located in a city or town. Grand Trunk Railway Co. of Canada v. Ives, 144 U.S. 408, 12 S.Ct. 679, 36 L.Ed. 485." Southern R. v. United States, 197 F.2d 922, 925 (5th Cir. 1952). Whether the train was being operated at a speed so as to avoid doing injury to persons on the crossing, and whether if the emergency brakes had been applied earlier those persons would not have been injured, presented questions of negligence which were properly within the province of the jury. The trial court did not err in denying the appellants' motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for new trial, since there was at least some evidence to support the verdict. Atlantic C....

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8 cases
  • Syfrett v. State, A93A1568
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 20 August 1993
    ...felonies, infamous crimes, and those that are malum in se and disclose a depraved mind. (Cit.)" (Cits.)' Seaboard Coast Line R. Co. v. West, 155 Ga.App. 391, 393, 271 S.E.2d 36 (1980). Accord Hall v. Hall, 261 Ga. 188, 402 S.E.2d 726 (1991) (holding that DUI is not such an offense).... [Als......
  • Polk v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 10 February 1992
    ...of felonies, infamous crimes, and those that are malum in se and disclose a depraved mind. (Cit).' [Cits.]" Seaboard, etc., R. Co. v. West, 155 Ga.App. 391, 393, 271 S.E.2d 36 (1980). Accord Hall v. Hall, 261 Ga. 188, 402 S.E.2d 726 (1991) (holding that DUI is not such an offense). While th......
  • Baird v. Baird, A92A0737
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 10 June 1992
    ...felonies, infamous crimes, and those that are malum in se and disclose a depraved mind. (Cit.)' [Cits.]" Seaboard Coast Line R.R. v. West, 155 Ga.App. 391, 393, 271 S.E.2d 36 (1980). Crimes malum in se are those inherently immoral, whereas crimes malum prohibitum are those not inherently im......
  • Wall v. Southern Ry. Co., A90A0646
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • 3 July 1990
    ...law, [n]or relieves it from adopting such other measures as public safety and common prudence dictate." Seaboard Coast Line R. Co. v. West, 155 Ga.App. 391, 392(1), 271 S.E.2d 36 (1980). See also Isom v. Schettino, 129 Ga.App. 73, 75(1), 199 S.E.2d 89 (1973). This would be especially true w......
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