The Texas Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a collision of a train and a car at a railroad crossing that raises questions of federal preemption as well as sufficiency of evidence.

Ladonna Sue Rigsby was killed by a train operated by Kansas City Southern Railroad Co. while she was driving across a railroad crossing. Her children sued the railroad company, alleging that its failure to correct a raised hump in the mid-point of the crossing and its failure to maintain a yield sign at the crossing were proximate causes of the accident.

The jury found the railroad company and Rigsby were both negligent and equally responsible for the accident. The trial court entered a judgment awarding the plaintiffs damages for the railroad company’s negligence.

The railroad company appealed, raising the issue of whether the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act preempts common-law tort suits against it based on a humped crossing. The company also questioned whether there was legally insufficient evidence to support a finding that the railroad company’s failure to maintain a yield sign at the crossing proximately caused the collision.

A divided court of appeals reversed and remanded. The majority concluded that the plaintiffs’ humped-crossing theory is preempted by federal law and that the submission to the jury of both the humped-crossing theory and the yield-sign theory in a single liability question was harmful error. The court remanded for a new trial on the yield sign theory alone.

Both parties petitioned for review. The plaintiffs challenge the court of appeals’ holding that the humped-crossing theory is preempted by federal law, and the railroad company challenges the court of appeals’ conclusion that the plaintiffs presented legally sufficient evidence of causation on the yield-sign theory.

The Supreme Court granted both petitions and set oral argument for January 31, 2023.


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