Monday, November 11, 2013

Duncan v. Kansas City Southern Railway case brief

Duncan v. Kansas City Southern Railway case brief summary
773 So. 2d 670 (La. 2000)

The court granted an application for writ of certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeal, Third Circuit (Louisiana), affirming the trial court's fault allocation in a tort suit.


This tort suit arose out of a collision between a locomotive and a church van at a railroad crossing. Plaintiffs, parents of three van passengers, filed suit to recover damages. A jury found defendant driver of the van and defendant railroad liable for the accident, apportioning fault between the two. The decision was affirmed by the court of appeal.


  • On review by writ of certiorari, the judgment was reversed in part to reduce defendant railroad's percentage of fault. 
  • While defendant railroad complied with La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 32:169, requiring sufficient warning signs, marks, and signals at the railroad crossing, defendant failed to properly maintain the crossing site. 
  • The jury did not err in concluding defendant railroad's failure to adequately maintain sight distances was a cause-in-fact of plaintiffs' damages. 
  • However, the jury's finding that defendant railroad was 58.6% at fault and defendant driver was only 26.4% at fault constituted an abuse of discretion given evidence that defendant driver failed to stop at the cattleguard.


Judgment affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. While defendant railroad breached its duty of care to maintain railroad crossing, its fault was minimal compared to defendant driver. The percentages of fault of defendant railroad and defendant driver were changed to 33.3% and 66.67%, respectively.

Suggested Study Aids For Tort Law

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