Gustave Kaplan brought this tort action, individually, and as administrator for the estate of his minor daughter, Linda Kaplan (Linda). Linda attained the age of 18 years before trial of this action and Sidney Kaplan (Linda's brother) was substituted as a plaintiff, as curator for the interdict, Linda Kaplan. Plaintiffs seek (1) to recover damages for personal injuries suffered by Linda when she was struck and knocked off a railroad bridge by a train and (2) to recover damages for the medical expenses incurred by Gustave Kaplan in providing treatment for Linda's injuries.
Named as defendants are the Missouri-Pacific Railroad Company (MoPac), the owner of the bridge and train, and its employees who were operating the train. These employees are R. B. Walker, L. A. Cole, Herman Harris, Gordon Lovell, and L. B. Crain.
Plaintiffs' action was tried before a jury which returned a verdict in favor of defendants. The trial court, pursuant to that verdict, rendered judgment in favor of defendants and against plaintiffs dismissing plaintiffs' suit with prejudice. Plaintiffs appeal from that judgment and present the following issues:
(1) Whether the trial court properly denied plaintiffs' motion for a new trial after finding the jury's verdict contrary to the law and evidence;
(3) Whether the jury correctly found defendants, L. B. Crain and MoPac, not liable to plaintiffs;
(4) Did defendants make an improper appeal to the jury's bias, passion or prejudice?
This action arises out of a tragic accident which occurred on April 15,1972 at approximately 2:30 P.M. in Rapides Parish. Linda and three of her friends, Sarah Fuhrer (Sarah), Annie McBride (Annie), and Mary Aertker (Mary) had made plans during the week preceding the accident to go to a place on the Red River between Alexandria and Pineville known as "Sandy Beach". The girls were between 15 and 16 years of age and planned to sunbathe and play on the banks of the river.
On the day of the accident, Linda borrowed an automobile belonging to her brother, Sidney Kaplan, and she and Annie, who had spent Friday night at Linda's house, went to pick up the other two girls. The girls then drove north from Alexandria on U.S. Highway 165 and crossed the Red River on the O.K.Allen Bridge. They proceeded to the Fort Buhlow Recreation Park, which is located on the left side of U.S. Highway 165 as one comes off the O.K.Allen Bridge heading north. The girls turned into the recreation area, passed through a gate, and got on top of the levee paralleling the river. There is a small road on top of the levee, and they headed west down that road for approximately one-half of a mile until they came to the MoPac's track leading to its bridge across the river.
The MoPac bridge is 1060 feet long and there is a curve in the track as it approaches the bridge from the north. Sandy Beach is located near the south end of the bridge or Alexandria side of the Red River. The girls got out of the automobile and began walking down the railroad track toward the bridge. They crossed the bridge and walked down the south bank of the river to Sandy Beach where they remained for about a half-hour. They then decided to go back across the river to the recreation area and were crossing the bridge in single
Meanwhile, MoPac Train Number 85 was headed south toward the bridge. The train consisted of 4 diesel locomotives and 113 freight cars and was traveling at 38 miles per hour as it came out of the curve north of the bridge. Mary saw the train at about the same time as the engineer began to blow the horn in his attempt to warn them. She screamed and she and Sarah ran down the trestle toward the train and jumped onto a cement piling. The engineer placed the train in emergency stop, but it continued forward for another 1800 feet. It finally came to a stop with the lead locomotive right at the point where the south approach to the bridge begins. It had traveled across the bridge and in doing so had knocked Annie and Linda off. Annie had fallen a few feet and was not seriously injured. However, Linda had fallen a little over 40 feet to the hard ground below and was knocked unconscious, suffering serious permanent injury.
Plaintiffs instituted this action on March 20, 1973, alleging numerous acts of negligence on the part of MoPac and its employees who were operating the train. Defendants answered, denying any negligence on their part, and pleading the affirmative defenses of contributory negligence and assumption of the risk. Plaintiffs have dismissed, with prejudice, their suit against Walker, Lovell, Cole and Harris. The only defendants now are MoPac and Crain, the engineer operating the train at the time of the accident.
Trial of plaintiffs' action began on September 22, 1980, with the selection of the jury. Pursuant to a motion made in open court by plaintiffs, the trial court rendered judgment of dismissal as of non-suit as to defendant, L. B. Crain. The next day, defendants filed a petition for removal in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana seeking to remove this action to that court. Defendants based jurisdiction in the federal court on diversity of citizenship existing between plaintiffs and the remaining defendant, MoPac. The trial court stayed the proceedings upon being informed of this.
Plaintiffs immediately filed a "Motion to Reinstate as Defendant or, Alternatively, Motion for New Trial" seeking to have L. B. Crain reinstated as a defendant to the action. The trial court granted plaintiffs' motion and denied defendants' motion for an appeal from that judgment. On September 29, 1980, defendants filed, in the trial court, a "Notice of Intention to Apply for A Writ" to this Court. Defendants also filed a "Notice of Intent to Apply for Supervisory Writs" to the Louisiana Supreme Court at that time. That same day, we granted writs and made them peremptory stating:
The Louisiana Supreme Court, on September 29, 1980, stated that the application for writs was not considered because relators had obtained the relief sought by order of this Court.
Meanwhile, plaintiffs had filed a "Petition for Remand" in the United States District Court, (W.D. Louisiana) on September 23, 1980, which motion was denied by that court on September 25, 1980. On September 26, 1980, acting on plaintiffs' "Application for Mandamus, Prohibition, and Extraordinary Relief", the United States Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court and ordered that this case be remanded to the Ninth Judicial District Court for the State of Louisiana.
The trial of plaintiffs' action was resumed that same day and lasted until October 7,1980. The case then went to the jury which returned a unanimous verdict in favor of defendants after deliberating for 30
Plaintiffs assign as error the trial court's refusal to give certain instructions to the jury, as requested by them, and the trial court's charge to the jury, which they claim contains erroneous instructions. Defendants contend that plaintiffs are precluded from raising any issues concerning the jury instructions as they failed to timely object to them.
The record shows that at the close of the testimony and evidence, the trial court convened a special hearing to allow plaintiffs and defendants time to object to its proposed jury instructions. The parties had previously presented to the trial court their requested special jury instructions and numerous memoranda in connection therewith. At the conclusion of this hearing, the trial court and the parties entered into an agreement regarding the timeliness of objections to the instructions. That agreement reserved to the parties the right to make these objections after the trial court had charged the jury and they had retired to deliberate. The trial court also stated that it would consider the objections made at this special hearing as being reurged automatically at the close of its charge to the jury.
LSA-C.C.P. Article 1793 provides:
"Art. 1793. Instruction to jury; objections
LSA-C.C.P. Article 1793 provides that an objection to the giving or the failure to give an instruction must be made before the jury retires to consider its verdict. An agreement, similar to the one entered into by the parties, was held to be invalid in Outlaw v. Bituminous Insurance Co., 357 So.2d 1350 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1978), writ denied, 359 So.2d 1293 (La.1978). However, four of the present Justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court concurred in the writ denial stating on 359 So.2d 1294:
We will give effect to the parties' agreement in the present action.
In a jury trial, the judge is not required to give the precise instructions submitted by either party, but he must give instructions which properly reflect the law applicable in light of the pleadings and facts in each particular case. If instructions concerning negligence and liability are confusing or misleading, or omit an applicable essential legal principle, such instructions constitute reversible error. Miller v. Fogleman Truck Lines, Inc., 398 So.2d 634 (La.App. 3 Cir. 1981), writ denied, 401 So.2d 358 (La.1981); Gonzales v. Xerox Corporation, 320 So.2d 163 (La.1975); Beck v. Lovell, 361 So.2d 245 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1978), writ denied, 362 So.2d 802 (La.1978).
Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that a violation of MoPac's own safety rules is evidence of negligence. The trial court refused to give this instruction believing that it might convey to the jury the impression
Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that negligence is determined by weighing the likelihood of harm and the gravity of harm threatened against the burden of taking the requisite precautions. The trial court apparently felt that such an instruction might be construed by the jury improperly as a comment on the facts. We have reviewed the trial court's charge to the jury with respect to the issue of negligence and find it to be adequate.
Adequate instructions are those instructions which fairly and reasonably point up the issues presented by the pleadings and evidence and which provide correct principles of law for the jury's application thereto. Miller v. Fogleman Truck Lines, Inc., supra; Bienvenu v. Angelle, 254 La. 182, 223 So.2d 140 (1969); Hanks v. Drs. Ranson, Swan and Burch, Ltd., 359 So.2d 1089 (La. App. 3 Cir. 1978), writ denied, 360 So.2d 1178 (La.1978). The record shows that the trial court included La.Civil Code Article 2315 in his charge to the jury. He then correctly explained to the jury that a breach or disregard of a legal duty constitutes fault and, further, that a defendant's fault must be causally related to the injury suffered by plaintiff for the defendant to be held liable.
Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that LSA-C.C. Article 2322 afforded an alternative basis for strict liability under the pleadings and facts of this case. The trial judge refused to give this instruction because he felt it would be too confusing to explain to the jury how a railroad bridge could be considered a "building" for purposes of LSA-C.C. Article 2322. The record shows that the trial court did charge the jury as to the provisions of LSA-C.C. Article 2317. The trial court also took great care in explaining to the jury the law respecting that portion of LSA-C.C. Article 2317 relating to things in the custody of a defendant, which create an unreasonable risk of harm to others. The trial court also explained the causal relationship which must exist between the defect in the thing that presents an unreasonable risk of harm to others and the injuries suffered by a plaintiff, in order for defendant to be held liable. We find that the trial court adequately explained the law surrounding the issue of strict liability.
Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred by instructing the jury on the doctrine of contributory negligence as, under the facts shown at trial, no charge should have been given on the doctrine. We find that plaintiffs made no objection to the trial court's giving of this charge either at the special hearing it conducted on its proposed jury instructions or after the jury had retired to deliberate. Thus, we conclude that plaintiffs waived this objection.
Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that when defendant's negligence is aggravated, ordinary contributory negligence of the victim is no defense. Again, we find that plaintiffs have waived this objection by failing to make it at the times specified in the parties' agreement.
Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the
This Court, in Widcamp v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, 381 So.2d 937 (La.App. 3 Cir. 1980), expanded Baumgartner's holding to cases where the pedestrian is struck in some other area besides the crosswalk
There is a great difference between a motorist operating his vehicle on the public streets and highways, and a railroad operating its trains on its own right-of-way. Except for those areas designated for the public to cross the railway, a pedestrian has no right to be on the right-of-way, which is essentially private property. Equally obvious is the fact that an automobile is much easier to control than a train and the driver of an automobile has a much better chance to avoid injuring a pedestrian than does a locomotive engineer. There is a long line of jurisprudence in this State to the effect that an engineer, when sighting a person or a vehicle on the track, can presume that he or it will move from the position of danger upon the sounding of the train's bell or the blowing of its whistle or horn; and, that it is only when the engineer realizes that the warnings are not going to be heeded that he should make an effort to stop the train. See Wheat v. New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad Company, 245 La. 1099, 163 So.2d 65 (1964); Breaux v. Texas and Pacific Railway Company, 176 So.2d 640 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1965), writ denied, 248 La. 375, 178 So.2d 660 (1965); Hymel v. Texas & New Orleans Railroad Company, 145 So.2d 138 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1962), writ denied, So.2d (La.1962); Fradella v. Texas
We find that the trial court correctly refused to instruct the jury on the "Baumgartner" doctrine.
Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that Linda's negligence, if any, would not be a defense if either the injuries fell outside the scope of her duty or were within the scope of defendants' duty. We find that plaintiffs failed to object to the trial court's refusal to give this instruction at the times agreed upon by the parties. Thus, the objection is waived.
Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in refusing to charge the jury on the "sudden emergency" doctrine. We agree with plaintiffs that the sudden emergency doctrine provides a defense or exception to both primary negligence and contributory negligence. See Hickman v. Southern Pacific Transport Company, 262 La. 102, 262 So.2d 385 (1972). However, the doctrine requires that the emergency, in which the party claiming the benefit of the doctrine finds himself, and which requires him to act, did not come about as a result of his own negligence. There was no evidence adduced by plaintiffs which would support a finding that the emergency, in which Linda found herself, did not come about as a result of her own actions. Thus, the trial court properly refused to give an instruction to the jury on the doctrine of sudden emergency.
Finally, plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on the affirmative defense of "assumption of the risk". Essentially, plaintiffs argue that defendants failed to adduce any evidence tending to show the existence of such a defense. Plaintiffs rely on Gasquet v. Commercial Union Insurance Company, 391 So.2d 466 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1980), which contained the following quote from an earlier decision by that court in Jackson v. West Jefferson General Hospital, 245 So.2d 724 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1971):
We are unable to say whether the jury based its verdict on a finding that defendants were not negligent, or that Linda had assumed the risk that led to her injuries, because of the general verdict form used. However, for the following reasons, we conclude that the jury could have correctly made a finding of no liability on either basis.
Plaintiffs rely on the decision in Dorry v. Lafleur, 399 So.2d 559 (La.1981) and Dofflemyer v. Gilley, 384 So.2d 435 (La.1980). Dofflemyer stated, on page 438, that:
It is clear that a determination of whether a plaintiff assumed the risks that resulted in his injury is based upon a subjective inquiry into plaintiff's appreciation of those risks. Annie testified that all four girls discussed the fact that they would cross the bridge to get to Sandy Beach, and of being frightened because a train might come while they were on it. They discussed the options they would have in case that
Mary also testified that the girls discussed the fact of the block signal being green and what this meant. They discussed the fact that trains did use the bridge and that she had seen them in the past. However, she stated that she did not believe that they had discussed what evasive actions to take if a train came that day. She did feel that Linda and Annie had hesitated when they realized that the train was coming. Sarah could not recall whether any discussion of these matters had taken place.
We find that there was evidence adduced upon which the jury could have correctly concluded that Linda had assumed the risk of being injured on the bridge by a passing train. There is no merit to any of plaintiffs' contentions regarding the instructions given the jury by the trial court.
DEFENDANTS' ALLEGED NEGLIGENCE
Plaintiffs contend that L. B. Crain's conduct in operating the train as he did constitutes actionable negligence. Plaintiffs further contend that the personal injuries suffered by Linda resulted from this negligent conduct as did the medical expenses which were incurred in providing treatment for her injuries. Thus, plaintiffs argue that Crain is liable to them in damages for these items.
Crain is alleged to have committed the following acts of negligence: failing to see what he should have seen; failing to keep a proper lookout; failing to timely blow the horn in advance of actually seeing the bridge; failing to keep the locomotives properly sanded and the brake drums aired so as to stop the train timely; failing to keep a proper lookout and to apply the brakes sooner; approaching a known dangerous area at an excessive rate of speed; and, failing to avail himself of the last clear chance to avoid the accident by simply blowing the train's horn sooner and/or applying the brakes sooner, and/or stopping the train.
Plaintiffs also contend that MoPac was negligent and that this negligence, either independently of or in combination with Crain's alleged negligent conduct, resulted in the accident. MoPac is alleged to have been negligent in the following instances: failing to maintain the right-of-way so as to permit visual inspection of the bridge at a greater distance than 1000 feet; failing to post warning signs prohibiting the use of the bridge by pedestrians and the general public; failing to warn of the potential danger in using the bridge; failing to erect barricades and/or other impediments prohibiting people from using the bridge; knowing that people were using the bridge, failing to make provisions for exiting the same should a train arrive; failing to post a whistle board and/or other warning devices a sufficient distance from the approach to the bridge so as to instruct the engineer to blow the whistle which would have warned petitioner's daughter and others who may have been on the bridge of the impending approach of the train, thereby averting the accident; and, maintaining a wooden walkway along the length of the bridge as a footpath across the river and facilitating the presence of persons on the bridge.
The first inquiry in making a determination of liability in this case is whether any causal relationship exists between the harm suffered by Linda and defendants'
Photographs introduced by the parties, as well as testimony, clearly show that the railroad track curves as it approaches the north end of the MoPac bridge, which is the direction from which the train that struck Linda came. The curve ends approximately 400 feet from the trestle leading to the bridge itself. However, because the curve is a gradual one, it is possible to see the bridge and its north approach from a greater distance than that. Further, the employees operating a train are some 15 feet above ground level and this also increases the distance from which the bridge may be seen. The speed limit on this particular stretch of track was set by MoPac at 50 miles per hour.
Crain testified that the train was traveling between 40 and 45 miles per hour when he began to apply the brakes north of a point where the tracks of the Louisiana and Arkansas Railway cross MoPac's. This crossing is located approximately 1¼ miles north of the bridge. He stated that there were two reasons for doing this. First, there is a turn-out
Crain testified that as he was coming around the curve north of the bridge, he was looking for the block signal near the turn-out. He had his left hand on the brake valve handle and was either going to release the brakes if the signal was green or apply them for a while longer if it was yellow. He stated that he never saw the signal because as the north approach to the bridge came into view, he saw the girls on it. Crain testified that the train was traveling at 38 miles per hour and was 800 feet from where the girls were on the bridge when he saw them. He immediately put the train in emergency stop
We find that Crain was keeping a proper lookout and did see what he should have seen at the time that the accident occurred. There was testimony from all of the crewmen that the train had been fully inspected in Monroe, its point of origin. Also, that it had been fully inspected twice, once at Grayson, and once at Georgetown, in route to Alexandria. In addition, a locomotive and freight cars added to the train at Tioga were inspected at that time. We find that the locomotives had been sanded and that the brakes on the train were working properly when the accident occurred.
Plaintiffs strenuously argued that MoPac had violated one of its own rules by either removing a whistle post
-The horn or whistle must be sounded as prescribed by rule or law. Horn or whistle must not be used unnecessarily.
As can be seen, this rule does not require an engineer to sound the train's horn around curves
Plaintiffs also argue that defendants violated rule 14(1) which provides:
As can be seen, this rule requires that the horn be sounded when going around obscure curves to warn trackmen and other employees. Defendants presented evidence indicating that the presence of trackmen or other employees on a certain section of track would be known of in advance by the train crew because this information would be given to them in the train orders which they receive while operating the train. Further, this section of track, including the curve, is protected by block signals.
Finally, plaintiffs argue that defendants violated rule 14(m) which provides:
As can be seen, this rule only requires the engineer to sound the horn when approaching drawbridges, as may be required
We find that defendants did not violate any of their own safety rules. We observe that a violation of these rules would not necessarily be a breach of any duty owed to Linda, though, it could be a breach of a duty owed to MoPac's employees. We find no merit in plaintiffs' contention.
Assuming arguendo that plaintiffs' remaining allegations of negligent conduct on the part of the defendants did occur and were a cause-in-fact of Linda's injuries, we find no actionable negligence on the part of defendants.
The Louisiana Supreme Court, in Shelton v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., supra, citing earlier decisions, set forth the following analysis in making a determination of liability in tort actions based on negligence.
In the context of the present action, we believe that the crucial issue is whether defendants had notice that the bridge was being used by pedestrians to cross the river. A determination of this issue will show the duty, if any, owed by defendants to Linda.
Plaintiffs contend that the bridge is located next to a heavily used recreation area and that defendants knew that large numbers of people were in the area surrounding the north approach to the bridge and were using the bridge to cross the river. The railroad track leading to the north approach passes on the side of Lake Buhlow, which is a popular recreation area. However, the picnic grounds, etc. comprising the Fort Buhlow Recreation Park are located approximately ½ of a mile from the north approach. There are only two ways to get to the north approach other than by water. One is to pass through a gate, which existed at the time of the accident, and to travel on a small gravel road on top of the levee.
William H. Taber was the superintendent of the Red River-Atchafalaya Levee District, Bayou Boeuf District, at the time of the accident. He testified that the Levee Board had full control over the levee located between Buhlow Lake and the Red River. Prior to 1972, he had been ordered to erect a fence and gate between the levee and the Fort Buhlow Recreation Park to keep people off the levee. He stated that in 1972 the gate was kept locked but that people would simply tear the fence down and go on the levee. This was done in spite of the fact that posted signs were placed on both sides of the gate. Clearly, the levee and the north approach to MoPac's bridge are not part of any recreation area. The only other way to get to the north approach was to go around the lake and drive back down along the tracks on a road that was impassable at times and was impassable on the day of the accident.
Crain testified that he had operated hundreds of trains across the bridge and had never seen anyone on it. R. B. Walker, a senior locomotive engineer with MoPac, was riding in the cab of the rear locomotive of Train # 85 on the day of the accident. He testified that he had seen people on the trestles approaching the bridge, but never on the bridge itself. He had also seen people and cars in the area where the access road on top of the levee meets the railroad track. Herman Harris, the conductor on Train # 85, testified that he had worked with MoPac for 38 years prior to retiring and that he had never seen anyone on the bridge. Gordon Lovell testified that he had occasionally seen people on the bridge in the past.
Plaintiffs introduced the testimony of several witnesses in their attempt to show that the bridge was frequently being used by people to cross the river. Everitt Porter testified that he and some friends rode motorcycles across the bridge once but were not seen by any railroad employees. William Ratcliff stated that when he was 15 years old, he and his friends would play on the bridge. He further stated that he and a friend were on the bridge one night when a train headed north stopped about 200 yards south of the bridge. He and his friend then walked by the crewmen and said, "Hey" to them. He was also caught on the bridge one time and had to hang onto the superstructure to avoid being hit. Twice he had to jump from the trestles onto the ground below. He admitted under cross-examination that on the night that the train stopped, he and his friend weren't on the bridge but on the track leading to the bridge. Doug Gremillion, one of Ratcliff's friends, testified that he too had been on
Robert Beck testified that he crossed the bridge one time with a friend and that a train came while they were crossing, but that they were near the end and simply walked off the bridge. Joseph N. Coco, III testified that he and three friends made a movie on the bridge, which took about four or five hours. They had been on the bridge several times before. He testified under cross-examination that they had never seen anyone else on the bridge. He also admitted stating to another person that a reason for going on the bridge was that it was thrilling and challenging. Sarah testified that she had gone on the bridge twice before and had seen kids playing on it, but had never seen a train on it. Mary testified that she too had been on the bridge in the past but that she had never been on it when a train had passed. She stated that she and a friend were playing on the ground near the south approach one day when they noticed a train stopped further to the south. They walked up to the train and were warned by one of the crewmen to stay off the bridge because it was dangerous. However, as soon as the train left, they walked across the bridge in spite of the warning given them.
The evidence shows that this bridge presented an obvious danger to anyone attempting to walk across the river on it and that it was used infrequently in this manner. Some of plaintiffs' own witnesses testified that they had only been on the bridge once or that no railroad employees had seen them while they were on it. We find that railroad employees had rarely seen people on the bridge in the past and had no notice that it was being used by pedestrians to cross the river. Under these facts and circumstances, Crain's only duty toward Linda, and others similarly situated, was to be alert and to attempt to avoid injuring them once their being in a position of peril became known to him or should have become known to him.
As for MoPac, we find that it had no notice that pedestrians were using its bridge to cross the river. Indeed, the evidence shows that few people used it in that manner. Linda and her companions had no valid reason for being on the bridge. There was a road on the south levee of the Red River which passed right by Sandy Beach and which provided a much safer method of reaching it. However, we recognize that Linda's status at the time (invitee-licensee-trespasser) is of little help in applying LSA-C.C. Article 2315. See Cates v. Beauregard Electric Cooperative, Inc., 328 So.2d 367 (La. 1976).
In determining an owner's liability under LSA-C.C. Articles 2315 and 2316, the test has been stated to be whether in the management of his property he has acted as a reasonable man in view of the probability of injury to others. Walker v. Union Oil Mill, Inc., 369 So.2d 1043 (La.1979); Shelton v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., supra.
The court, in Walker, stated the following on page 1047 with respect to the duty owed by the owner and operator of a facility (there a soybean/grain elevator) to others:
The facility in the present action is the bridge, together with its approaches. It was designed and built as a bridge to carry trains across the Red River and nothing else. The curve in the track as it approaches the bridge from the north is completely visible to anyone contemplating crossing the bridge in either direction. So is the fact that there are very few places on the bridge where one may seek safety if caught by a train while crossing it.
Linda was 15 years old when the accident occurred and had never been on the bridge before. However, before going on the bridge, she and her companions discussed the fact that a train might come while they were on it. They even went as far as discussing what evasive actions they might take if that happened. One of the options they had discussed was hanging on to the superstructure if a train came. Because the dangers were obvious and were appreciated by Linda and the others, we find no breach by MoPac of its duty of not exposing persons, such as them, to unreasonable risks of injury or harm.
Having concluded that there was no breach of duty on the part of either defendant, there is no need to inquire whether the risk and harm caused were within the scope of the protection afforded by either defendant's duty. We find no actionable negligence based on the conduct of either defendant.
Plaintiffs sought to hold MoPac and Crain liable to them on the basis of strict liability as provided for in LSA-C.C. Articles 2317 and 2322. They contend that the track, right-of-way, and bridge were defective, and that Linda was injured because of these defects. They allege the following defects:
(1) the right-of-way, obscured by vegetation so as to shorten the distance from which trainmen could see persons on the bridge or persons on the bridge could see oncoming trains;
(2) the right-of-way, lacking a sign instructing the engineer to sound a whistle or horn a suitable distance from the bridge so as to warn persons who might be on the bridge;
(3) the bridge, equipped with an inviting walkway along its entire length, which facilitated and encouraged its use as a means of crossing the river on foot;
(4) the bridge, lacking "no trespassing" signs or other warning devices and of lacking any means whereby persons trapped on the bridge by an oncoming train could step off to safety;
(5) the bridge itself with no places of escape or safety save on the superstructure.
LSA-C.C. Article 2317 provides:
"Art. 2317. Acts of others and of things in custody
For recovery under LSA-C.C. Article 2317, a plaintiff must show: (1) that the thing which caused the injury was in the care and custody of the defendant-owner; (2) that a vice or defect existed in the thing; (3) that the vice or defect caused the injury. A vice or defect is defined as the creation of an unreasonable risk of injury to another. Reinhard v. City of New Orleans, 371 So.2d 286 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1979), writ denied, 374 So.2d 656 (La.1979); Loescher v. Parr, 324 So.2d 441 (La.1975).
It is obvious that the bridge, track, and right-of-way were not owned by, or in the care and custody of defendant, L. B. Crain. Thus, he is not strictly liable to plaintiffs for any injuries which may have been caused by defects in those things.
It is also obvious that MoPac does have the care or custody of those things. Thus, if plaintiffs proved the existence of a defect or vice in the thing, and that this defect or vice caused the injuries complained of, then MoPac may be held liable to them.
The evidence indicates that the track, bridge, and right-of-way were in the condition alleged by plaintiffs at the time of the accident. The issue is whether this condition created an unreasonable risk of injury to others. For the following reasons, we conclude that it did not.
We agree with plaintiffs' contention that the bridge presented a danger to anyone crossing it on foot. However, those dangers are clearly visible to anyone contemplating using it in such a manner. They are clearly visible to us from a perusal of the photographs entered in evidence.
We find that plaintiffs have failed to prove that the bridge, tracks, and right-of-way presented an unreasonable risk of injury to others. Thus, MoPac is not liable to them under the provisions of LSA-C.C. Article 2317. Plaintiffs have made no argument concerning the applicability of LSA-C.C. Article 2322. Having made the above findings on the issues of negligence and strict liability, we conclude that the jury correctly found no liability on the part of MoPac or Crain for the injuries suffered by Linda.
APPEALS TO JURY BIAS, PASSION AND PREJUDICE
We note that plaintiffs failed to object to any of the questions or arguments of defense counsel, which they alleged were improper appeals to the jury's bias, passion or prejudice. However, our review of the record discloses no evidence whatsoever that this occurred.
For the above and foregoing reasons, the judgment rendered by the trial court pursuant to the jury's verdict is affirmed.
All costs of this appeal are assessed against plaintiffs-appellants.