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Wright v. Norfolk and Western Railway Co.

Virginia Supreme Court
427 S.E.2d 724 (1993)


Facts

Mattie Wright (plaintiff) filed suit against Norfolk and Western Railway Company (Norfolk) (defendant) after her husband, Riley, was severely injured when his tandem dump truck collided with an oncoming train. On the day of the incident, Riley, an experienced truck driver, had previously driven his dump truck filled with gravel across the particular railroad crossing four times. The crossing was marked by signal boards and an advance railroad warning sign. There were no other signals, warning devices, or traffic controls in place. During the fifth trip, Riley followed another dump truck to the crossing. After the first truck moved over the crossing and cleared the track, Wright began to drive across the track, when the train, which was less than 10 feet away, slammed into the passenger side of the dump truck. At trial, the evidence showed that the weather was clear, hot, and humid at the time of the collision. Further, there was testimony that the train’s operator consistently blared the horn and whistle for several miles prior to reaching the intersection. Riley, who had lived less than a mile from the railroad crossing for 10 years, had his windows up, the air conditioning going, and his radio and CB radio on when the impact occurred. The trial court granted Norfolk’s request that the jury be instructed on Wright’s contributory negligence. The jury held for Wright and awarded him $4 million in damages. After the trial’s conclusion, the trial court granted Norfolk’s motion to set aside the verdict. Wright appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Compton, J.)

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