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Griffiths v. Consolidated Rail Corporation

A-4738-97T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1999) (Unpublished)

DANGEROUS CONDITIONS; LIABILITY—Where a railroad gains no benefit from an injured person’s crossing over its land, it is not liable for injuries sustained on adjacent land by a person who crossed the railroad’s land to get to that adjacent land.

A young girl walked to her school upon a well-trodden path across railroad tracks on a right-of-way, through a wooded area which ran between the tracks and a public street. While walking along the edge of the road (which had no sidewalks), she was struck by an automobile. The accident itself occurred off the railroad’s right-of-way and beyond its property limits. Relying on prior cases, including Roe v. N.J. Transit Rail Operations, 317 N.J. Super. 72 (App. Div. 1998), the girl’s parents argued that the railroad had liability for the injury. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the railroad, and the Appellate Division upheld that finding. The Court distinguished Roe. In that case, the railroad had welded open a gate which opened into a path under a highway to what was considered a dangerous park area. There, a potential “incidental benefit” was received by the railroad because the open gate improved access to its station. That was not the case here. Moreover, the path from the school over the tracks and to the edge of the public street differed in degree and risk from that encountered by using a freight yard as a shortcut home as was the issue in another earlier case that had held in favor of the injured party. As a result, the railroad was found not to be liable for the girl’s injuries.


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