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Beal v. Kansas City Southern Railway Co.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

September 12, 2017

TERESA BEAL, Appellant,
v.
KANSAS CITY SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, et al., Respondents.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Randolph County The Honorable Scott A. Hayes, Judge

          Before Cynthia L. Martin, P.J., and Lisa White Hardwick and Alok Ahuja, JJ.

          Alok Ahuja, Judge

         Appellant Theresa Beal was injured when her car was involved in a collision with a train at a railroad crossing in Higbee. She brought this personal injury action in the Circuit Court of Randolph County against the Respondents. Beal alleged that her injuries were caused by the Respondents' negligence in failing to maintain an unobstructed view of the right-of-way.

         The trial court granted summary judgment to Respondents. It concluded that Beal was negligent for failing to stop her car at the crossing, and that her negligence was the sole cause of the accident.

         Beal appeals. We reverse.

         Factual Background

         On June 13, 2013, Beal's vehicle was struck by a train at DOT Crossing No. 293392L, located on Randolph Street in Higbee. At the time of the collision, the approach to the crossing was protected by a stop sign, a railroad crossbuck sign, and a railroad crossing advance warning sign.

         The collision occurred at 8:38 p.m., in "dark-lighted" conditions; Beal testified that it was "sort of dusk." Beal was driving a Ford Contour southbound on Randolph Street. At the same time, a train owned and operated by the Kansas City Southern Railway Company and Kansas City Southern, Inc. was traveling westbound on the railroad tracks that intersect with Randolph Street. Beal alleged that she sustained serious injuries in the collision.

         On November 30, 2015 Beal filed her Second Amended Petition against Respondents Kansas City Southern Railway, Kansas City Southern, Capital Railroad Contracting, Inc., and Ironhorse, Inc. (At the time of the accident, Capital and Ironhorse were under contract with KC Southern Railway and KC Southern to perform track surfacing and tie replacement in the area where the collision occurred.) In her Second Amended Petition, Beal alleged that her injuries were caused by Respondents' negligence in: failing to ensure that the railroad right-of-way was free from visual obstructions, including parked vehicles and vegetation; failing to properly inspect the crossing; failing to warn of the dangerous condition of the crossing; and failing to properly maintain and update the crossing and its traffic control devices.

         The stop sign at the crossing was installed by the City of Higbee before 2006. Beal had been a resident of Higbee for several years before the accident, and she admitted that the stop sign had "always been there." Beal acknowledged that she had frequently driven over the crossing prior to the collision. She also admitted that she saw the stop sign and railroad crossbuck sign as she approached the crossing immediately prior to the collision.

         Beal testified in her deposition that as she approached the crossing, she began to look for trains on the track, although she could not remember where her car was located when she started looking for trains.

         A digital video recorder on the lead locomotive of the train captured audio and video of the collision. The audio recording indicates that the locomotive's air horn was sounding as the train approached the crossing. As the locomotive approaches the crossing, the video recording shows vegetation, and vehicles parked near the right of way, to the right of the train - the direction from which Beal's vehicle was approaching. The video indicates that Beal's vehicle did not come to a complete stop before entering the crossing.

         The Respondents filed a joint motion for summary judgment, which argued that Beal was negligent per se for violating Missouri statutes and a Higbee ordinance which required her to stop before entering the crossing. The circuit court granted the motion. In addition to finding that Beal was negligent per se, the court also found that "Plaintiff's negligence was the sole cause of the collision and Plaintiff's alleged injuries and damages, " and that "Plaintiff's contention ...


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