Pokora v. Wabash Ry. Co.
SCOTUS - 1934
- P was driving a truck and came to a railroad crossing. D's boxcars were on one of the tracks, blocking P's view of the rest of the track.
- P stopped, looked, and listened as well as he could and proceeded slowly. P was hit by a train.
- P sued D in negligence.
- Trial court directed verdict for D.
- Circuit COA affirmed.
- SCOTUS reversed and remanded.
- What is the standard of care for approaching railroad crossings?
- A person is required to slow down and look when he approaches a railroad crossing. A person is not required to stop and get out of the vehicle, especially if it is dangerous to do so.
- Additionally, courts should be careful about creating "rules of law" since they hardly ever cover every possible scenario.
- It can be inferred that the truck was already in a zone of danger when it stopped; thus, it would have been dangerous for P to get out and look.
- P's case should get to the jury unless, as a matter of law, he was subject to a duty to get out of the vehicle before it crossed the switch and survey the scene.
- Judges should be cautious in framing standards of behavior that amount to rules of law. There are always extraordinary circumstances that can arise and render the rule useless.