Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 56. Public Service Companies
Chapter 13. Railroad Corporations
11/27/2022

Article 8. Rights-of-Way; Fires; Fences; Cattle Guards, Etc.

§ 56-426. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1984, c. 227.

§ 56-426.1. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1988, c. 891.

§ 56-427. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1996, cc. 114 and 157.

§ 56-428. Railroads liable for damage from fires set out by their engines or trains.

Whenever any person sustains damage from fire occasioned by sparks or coals dropped or thrown from the engine or train of any railroad company, such company shall be liable for the damage so sustained, whether such fire originated on the company's right-of-way or not.

Code 1919, § 3992; 1996, cc. 114, 157.

§ 56-429. Company to erect fences along roadbed; cattle guards, etc.

Upon the written request by certified mail to the registered agent of the railroad in question of any landowner whose land adjoins the railroad and whose land is otherwise enclosed for the purpose of maintaining livestock, every railroad company shall cause fences to be erected along its line and on both sides of its roadbed and shall keep such fences in proper repair. Such fence shall be adequate to enclose livestock. The owners of adjoining lands may connect their fences with such fences at such places as they may deem proper. In erecting such fences the company shall, at the termini of those portions of the roadbed which it is required to fence, and on each side of all public and private crossings, construct across its roadbed and keep in good repair cattle guards reasonably sufficient to turn all kinds of livestock, with which its fences shall be connected. Such cattle guards at private crossings may be dispensed with if the company erects sufficient gates and maintains them in good order.

Such fences shall be constructed on the request of the landowner, in writing, by certified mail, to the registered agent of such railroad. If the company refuses or fails, for 180 days after such request, to construct or maintain the fences at the place designated, the owner, having given ten days' notice in writing to such registered agent, may apply to the circuit court of the county or city in which any such point is located for the appointment of three disinterested freeholders, whose duty it shall be to go on the land and determine whether the proposed fence shall be constructed. Their decision shall be in writing, and shall be forthwith returned to and filed in the office of the clerk of such court. If such decision is that the fence ought to be constructed, the company shall, within sixty days thereafter, construct the same. Upon its failure so to do, it shall pay to the landowner fifty dollars for every day of such failure. Any style of fence approved by the State Corporation Commission shall, if properly constructed and maintained, be deemed a sufficient fence within the meaning of this chapter. Any delay in construction or maintenance caused by inclement weather, war, strikes, acts of God, national emergencies or failure of any local, state, or federal governmental agencies to grant permits shall extend the aforesaid period.

Any such company may erect gates or bars instead of the cattle guards required by this section, if, in the judgment of the company, the hazard to trains at such crossings requires gates or bars as a safeguard to life and property on the trains. If such fence, cattle guard or gate is destroyed or damaged due to the negligence of the landowner, the landowner shall be solely responsible for restoring or repairing such fence, cattle guard or gate.

The circuit court of the county or city wherein any such fence or cattle guard, or any portion thereof, is to be erected or built pursuant to this section shall have jurisdiction through its power to grant equitable relief to compel the erection of any such fence, or building of any such cattle guards along or adjoining lands or lots actually enclosed.

Code 1919, § 3946; 1994, c. 352.

§ 56-430. Construction of § 56-429; burden of proof.

Section 56-429, so far as it relates to fencing, shall not apply to any part of a railroad located within the corporate limits of a city or town, or between the terminals of switches, or spur tracks, not exceeding 350 yards from the depot, either way, nor to any part of a railroad at a place where there is a cut or embankment with sides sufficiently steep to prevent the passage of stock at such place; nor in an action by an adjacent owner to recover for stock killed or injured on the track shall it apply to a company which has compensated the owner for making and keeping in repair the necessary fencing, but the burden of proving the fact of such compensation shall be on the company, and no report of any commissioners shall be received as proof thereof, unless it shall plainly appear on the face of the report, or from other evidence in connection therewith, that an estimate was made by such commissioners for the fencing, and the expense for the same entered into, and constituted a part of the damages reported and actually paid.

Code 1919, § 3947.

§ 56-431. When company not liable for injury on enclosed track.

No railroad company shall be liable for any injury to any person or property on such part of its track as may be enclosed according to the provisions of this chapter, unless it be made to appear that the person or property was thereon by express permission of the company, or through the negligence of its employees, agents or servants, or unless the injury was willful or the result of gross negligence on the part of the company, its servants, agents, or employees.

Code 1919, § 3948.

§ 56-432. Liability for injury on track not enclosed.

In any action or suit against a railroad company for an injury to any property on any part of its tracks not enclosed according to the provisions of this chapter it shall not be necessary for the claimant to show that the injury was caused by the negligence of the company, its employees, agents, or servants.

Code 1919, § 3949.

§ 56-433. Cattle guards; remedy of aggrieved landowner; penalty.

Every railroad company whose road passes through any enclosed lands in this Commonwealth shall construct and keep in good order cattle guards reasonably sufficient to prevent the passage of livestock of every kind over such land, at any point where a fence may be necessary or proper, whether it is a division fence between contiguous farms or between different parcels or tracts belonging to the same person, or a fence along a public highway. Such cattle guards shall be constructed on the request of the landowner, in writing, by certified mail, to the registered agent of such railroad. If the company refuses or fails, for ninety days after such request, to construct or maintain the cattle guards at the place designated, the owner, having given ten days' notice in writing to the registered agent, may apply to the circuit court of the county or city in which any such point is located for the appointment of three disinterested freeholders, whose duty it shall be to go on the land and determine whether the proposed cattle guard shall be constructed. Their decision shall be in writing, and shall be forthwith returned to and filed in the office of the clerk of such court. If such decision is that the cattle guard ought to be constructed, the company shall, within ninety days thereafter, construct the same. Upon its failure so to do, it shall pay to the landowner fifty dollars for every day of such failure. Any style of cattle guard approved by the State Corporation Commission shall, if properly constructed and maintained, be deemed a sufficient cattle guard within the meaning of this chapter. Any delay in construction or maintenance caused by inclement weather, war, strikes, acts of God, national emergencies or failure of any local, state, or federal governmental agencies to grant permits shall extend the aforesaid period.

Code 1919, § 3950; 1994, c. 352.

§ 56-434. When cattle guards may be discontinued.

Every railroad company, after erecting the fences mentioned in § 56-429, may discontinue all cattle guards enclosed by such fences, except such as are provided for at public or private crossings, and in lieu thereof the owners of contiguous lands may connect their fences with those of the company at such place or places as they may desire.

Code 1919, § 3951.

§ 56-435. Appeal from general district court to circuit court in cattle-guard cases.

In all suits brought before the general district court against railroad companies to recover penalties for failure to construct cattle guards as required by law, either party shall have the right of appeal to the circuit court of the county where such suit is brought, from the judgment of the general district court, without regard to the amount in controversy.

Code 1919, § 3954; 2005, c. 839.

§ 56-436. Board of appraisers to appraise injured or killed livestock; duty of appraisers.

Whenever any horses, cattle, or other livestock are killed or injured, or other property damaged, by the cars or locomotives upon any railroad, it shall be lawful for the owner thereof or for the railroad company to have the property examined and the damages assessed by a board of appraisers in the following manner:

Either party, his agent or attorney, may appoint one person as the appraiser in his behalf, and notify the other party; such notice, when intended for the railroad company, shall be sufficient if given by certified mail to the registered agent of such railroad. Then the party so notified shall appoint an appraiser on his behalf, and the two appraisers shall select a third appraiser. These three persons shall constitute a board of appraisers to examine and appraise the property so injured or damaged, and shall examine the horses or other livestock so killed, or injured, or the other property so damaged, and affix a value upon the same if killed, or assess the damages to the same if injured, and make a written report, carefully describing the horses, cattle, or other livestock or property, stating whether killed or injured, and also setting out the valuation or assessment of damages made by them. Such report shall be returned to the office of the clerk of the circuit court of the county or city in which such livestock was killed or injured, who shall file and preserve the same.

Code 1919, § 3994; 1994, c. 352.

§ 56-437. Effect of appraisal in case of suit; costs.

If the railroad company fails, for sixty days after such report is so returned to such clerk, to pay to the owner the full amount assessed by the board of appraisers under § 56-436, and the cost attending the assessment, the owner shall have the right to institute suit on the original cause of action. If, upon the trial, he recovers a verdict for an amount equal to or greater than the amount assessed in his favor by the board of appraisers, it shall be the duty of the court to render judgment in his favor for the amount of such verdict, and costs of suit and, of such appraisement, and ten percent damages in addition thereto. If the owner recovers less than the amount so assessed, judgment shall be rendered in his favor for the amount of the verdict and costs of suit and appraisement; but if the company has offered to pay the award, and the owner has refused to accept the same, and he recovers a verdict for an amount less than such assessment, judgment shall be rendered in his favor for the amount of his recovery, but the cost of the appraisement and action shall be taxed against him.

Code 1919, § 3995; 1994, c. 352.

§ 56-438. Fee of appraisers.

Appraisers appointed pursuant to the provisions of § 56-436 shall receive for their services each the sum of one dollar.

Code 1919, § 3996; 1994, cc. 352, 432.

§ 56-439. Application of §§ 56-436 through 56-438.

The provisions of §§ 56-436 through 56-438 shall not apply to any railroad company which has its line of road enclosed with fences and cattle guards, as required by law.

Code 1919, § 3997.

§ 56-439.1. Notice of injury or death of certain livestock; penalty.

Whenever any horses, cattle, or other livestock are injured or killed by the cars or locomotives operating on a railroad, the section master or employee of the railroad having charge of the road at the place where the injury or death occurred shall, if he knows of the incident or should have known of it, within seventy-two hours, notify the owner of the animal or animals or the local law-enforcement agency of the injury or death and the location of the incident in relationship to state routes as well as railroad mile posts. Disposal of any such animal or animals without proper notification shall constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.

1994, c. 352.

§ 56-440. Penalty for failure to remove cause of complaint in cities or towns.

If any railroad, when directed so to do by a valid order of the State Corporation Commission, shall refuse or fail to remove the cause of complaint of the authorities of any incorporated city or town in which such railroad is located, as to the physical condition or operation of such railroad, it shall, in the discretion of the Commission, be fined not less than $10 nor more than $1,000.

Code 1919, § 4001.