The South Carolina Supreme Court has granted another opportunity for plaintiff in Stephens v. CSX Transportation to pursue damages on behalf of his minor granddaughter following a horrific car-versus-train accident.
Defendants in the case, CSX Transportation and the South Carolina Department of Transportation, had prevailed at trial. But the problem, as identified by the state high court, was the trial judge gave an erroneous charge to jurors that may have prejudiced the plaintiff. The appeals court, which affirmed trial verdict, erred in restricting its analysis of that case to only jury charge issues that were related to the breach of duty of reasonable care.
Specifically, on the initial question of negligence, the judge gave a misleading charge to jurors, particularly as it pertained to a section wherein the train engineer admitted to failure to timely sound his horn, in accordance with state law. There was also an erroneous charge as it related to a driver’s duty to stop at railroad crossings. The judge cited the wrong statute – pertaining to drivers’ duty to stop at intersecting highways, than at railroads. The South Carolina Supreme Court noted the statutes cited were irrelevant and also conflict with SC Code 56-5-2715, which requires drivers to stop within 50 feet – but not less than 15 feet – of the nearest rail of the railroad. Continue reading