Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Christoff v. Union Pacific (Cal. Ct. App. - Nov. 21, 2005)

Just last week, my colleage and friend, Michael Rappaport, came by my office and said that he thought that virtually every class in law school could credibly be taught by exclusively reading those cases that involve railroads. And although Mike is both a certifiable crank and right-wing nut job -- and his general credibility thus exceptionally low -- I found this particular comment to be both insightful and potentially true. There are indeed a lot of those cases. Indeed, at least one purpose of creating federal diversity jurisdiction was to help protect railroads from state liability. So there's indeed a large number of cases in this area.

Or at least there were. You don't see nearly as many of them nowadays. Not like, as Michael would say, "back in the Good Old Days" like the 1800's. (Why one would think that the 1800's were the "Good Old Days" remains unclear to me -- for, inter alia, reasons you might well imagine -- but I digress.)

So when I ran across this opinion, I had to at least mention it. A railroad liability case. In November 2005. Which answers the following question: When you walk on a pedestrian walkway that crosses a railroad bridge, and when a train blows by you at 50 miles per hour and either hits you or blows you down, can you survive summary judgment in your lawsuit claiming that the railroad had a duty to warn you not to use the walkway?

The answer, you ask? Well, according to Justice Sims, it's "No." Summary judgment for the railroad affirmed.

Why this case meets the standard for publication is beyond me, since the analysis is both very fact- and case-specific as well as doctrinally superficial. But, hey, it's a railroad case. So let's publish it and hence give Mike one more case with which to work. Enjoy!