Warning Signs For Trespassers

Yet another nutty jury has decided that it should be national policy to have warning signs every few feet on a railroad to warn trespassers against danger:

Jeffrey Klein and Brett Birdwell were 17 "when they trespassed onto
railroad property and climbed atop a rail car" because they wanted to
see the view from there. They were shocked by a 12,500-volt wire and
severely injured. The incident took place in Lancaster, Pa. but through
the miracle of forum selection the lawsuit against Amtrak and Norfolk
Southern landed before a jury in Philadelphia, a locality notably more
favorable for plaintiffs than Lancaster. An attorney said the railroads
should have posted signs for the benefit of trespassers warning of the
overhead hazard and also should have had the electricity turned off at
the time.

This is by no means the first such verdict.  I featured another here:

By the way, the exact wording on the complaint against the railroad is even better than I thought:

[engineer] did not stop the train in a timely manner, and failed to
yield the right of way to a pedestrian walking along the tracks in
plain view"

A freight train's topping distance is measured in miles, even with full emergency braking.

She and her attorney's further argue:

the railroad was negligent for failing to post signs warning 'of the
dangers of walking near train tracks and that the tracks were actively
in use

Lets leave aside the obvious point
about individual responsibility, and ask what would happen if this were
the legal standard, to have such signs.  To make sure someone saw one,
you would have to have one say every 30 feet.  Since there are just over 200,000 miles of freight railroads in the North America that works out to a bit over 35,000,000 signs that need to be posted.  At $100 per sign this would cost $3.5 billion.


  1. Rob:

    What part of "Hot Coffee" don't you understand?


  2. LJK:

    The worst part of any liability issue is the companies and groups set up to “protect” you from lawsuits. Most of them have only succeeded in turning a reasonable standard of care into and industry standard of care. I remember trying to put in a playground at the park. The National Playground Safety Institute pretends to protect you, but all they’ve really accomplished is turning three missing inches of landing area at the bottom of a slide into criminal negligence.

    With that said, I’ve always defended the woman who spilled coffee on herself. I can’t defend the amount the jury awarded her, but McDonald’s coffee is roughly the temperature of molten lava. “Warning: Hot Coffee,” doesn’t begin to cover it.