Csx Transp. v. Trism Specialized Carriers

Citation9 F.Supp.2d 1374
Decision Date04 June 1998
Docket NumberCivil No. 2:95-CV-41-WCO.
PartiesCSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Plaintiff, v. TRISM SPECIALIZED CARRIERS, INC. and The Continental Insurance Company, Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
ORDER

O'KELLEY, Senior District Judge.

The court conducted a week long jury trial in the captioned case beginning April 13, 1998. After the evidence was presented, the parties moved for judgment as a matter of law. The court denied defendant Trism Specialized Carriers, Inc.'s motion. The court denied plaintiff CSX Transportation, Inc.'s motion as to the complaint and granted plaintiff's motion as to defendant's counterclaim and defendant's affirmative defenses.1 The counterclaim and affirmative defenses were not presented to the jury. The trial ended with a hung jury on April 20, 1998. The court declared a mistrial and placed the case on the June 1, 1998 trial calendar.

On May 4, 1998, plaintiff memorialized its earlier oral motion for judgment as a matter of law [138-1]. Plaintiff moves the court to enter judgment in favor of plaintiff on the complaint. The court finds that the issue of whether the truck driver exercised ordinary care is a question of fact for the jury to decide. Accordingly, plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law on the complaint is hereby DENIED.

With respect to defendant's counterclaim, the issue before the court at trial was whether the railroad had a duty to install adequate warning devices and signals at the Cedar Creek crossing. The parties submitted trial briefs to the court on the issue [113-1, 122-1]. The court verbally ruled, prior to closing arguments and the charge to the jury, that Georgia statutory law precluded or overruled any such common law duty. The following order will memorialize the court's prior ruling.

In 1973, the Georgia Code of Public Transportation ("GCPT") was enacted "to revise, classify, consolidate and repeal ... other laws relating to all public roads [and] bridges, ... and to establish new laws relating thereto ...." Kitchen v. CSX Transportation, Inc., 265 Ga. 206, 207, 453 S.E.2d 712 (1995)(citing Ga.L.1973, p. 947.; O.C.G.A. § 32-1-1 et seq.). The purpose and legislative intent of the GCPT is further set out in O.C.G.A. § 32-1-2, as follows: "to provide a code of statutes for the public roads and other transportation facilities of the state, the counties, and municipalities of Georgia. The legislative intent is to provide an effective legal basis for the organization, administration, and operation of an efficient, modern system of public roads and other modes of transportation." O.C.G.A. § 32-1-2.

With respect to the duty to install adequate warning devices and signals at railroad crossings, the GCPT places that duty upon the governmental body responsible for the road which crosses the railroad tracks. O.C.G.A. § 32-6-50 provides in relevant part:

(a) The department shall promulgate uniform regulations governing the erection and maintenance on the public roads of Georgia of signs, signals, markings, or other traffic-control devices, such uniform regulations to supplement and be consistent with the laws of this state. Insofar as practical, with due regard to the needs of the public roads of Georgia, such uniform regulations shall conform to the recommended regulations as approved by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

(b) In conformity with its uniform regulations, the department shall place and maintain, or cause to be placed and maintained, such traffic-control devices upon the public roads of the state highway system as it shall deem necessary to regulate, warn, or guide traffic, except that the department shall place and maintain a sign for each railroad crossing at grade on the state highway system, warning motorists of such crossing, provided that each railroad company shall also erect and maintain a railroad crossbuck sign on its right of way at every such crossing. The department may remove or direct removal of all traffic-control devices and signs which are erected on the state highway system by any governing authority without the permission of the department.

(c) In conformity with the uniform regulations of the department, counties and municipalities shall place and maintain upon the public roads of their respective public road systems such traffic-control devices as are necessary to regulate, warn, or guide traffic except that counties and municipalities also shall erect and maintain a sign for each railroad crossing at grade on their respective county road or municipal street systems, warning motorists of such crossing. Furthermore, each railroad company shall erect and maintain a railroad crossbuck sign on its right of way at all such crossings.

. . . . .

O.C.G.A. § 32-6-50(a)-(c). In addition, O.C.G.A. § 32-6-51(a) provides:

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to erect, place, or maintain within the right of way of any public road any sign, signal, or other device except as authorized by subsection (d) of this Code section or as required or authorized by Code Section 32-6-50 or any other law.

O.C.G.A. § 32-6-51(a). These two provisions, working together, place the exclusive duty upon the governmental body to install adequate warning devices and signals at railroad crossings.

Several courts have considered this issue since the 1973 enactment of the GCPT and have concluded that the railroad has the duty to install adequate warning devices and signals at railroad crossings. However, this court finds that the prior cases rely upon the common law which existed prior to the enactment of the GCPT and do not address the issue in its current posture. Accordingly, the cases can be distinguished from this court's order. Moreover, this court's opinion follows the only Supreme Court of Georgia case to have addressed the issue.

In Kitchen v. CSX Transportation, Inc., 265 Ga. 206, 453 S.E.2d 712 (1995), parents of a driver who was killed after driving off an embankment into a railroad bed brought a wrongful death action against county officials and the railroad. Id. The Supreme Court of Georgia held that "under the GCPT, the statutory duty to maintain the public road and any warning devices thereon leading to the former site of the timber bridge was exclusively that of the county, both at the time the bridge was removed and at the time of the decedent's injury." Id. at 208, 453 S.E.2d 712. The Supreme Court then stated in a footnote that its holding was "bolstered by O.C.G.A. §§ 32-6-50 and 32-6-51(a), which place the exclusive duty in the governmental body to install and maintain traffic control devices on public roads (including railroad crossings), and which statutorily prohibit private entities, including railroads, from placing traffic control devices on the public roads." Id. at 208 n. 6, 453 S.E.2d 712.

Defendant cites to three post-1973 Georgia Court of Appeals decisions in support of its position that railroads have a common law duty to install adequate warning devices at railroad crossings. Central of Georgia Ry. Co. v. Markert, 200 Ga.App. 851, 410 S.E.2d 437 (1991); Wall v. Southern Ry. Co., 196 Ga.App. 483, 396 S.E.2d 266 (1990); Southern Ry. Co. v. Georgia Kraft Co., 188 Ga. App. 623, 373 S.E.2d 774 (1988).

In Southern Ry. Co. v. Georgia Kraft Co., the trial court charged the jury that it was to decide whether the railroad was negligent in failing to employ additional precautions at the crossing where the collision occurred. Georgia Kraft, 188 Ga.App. at 624, 373 S.E.2d 774. The railroad asserted that this charge was incorrect because the Georgia Department of Transportation is responsible for deciding which warnings are to be used at particular crossings. Id. The Court of Appeals rejected the railroad's argument and cited one of its prior cases as authority for its ruling. Id. The Court of Appeals quoted Wright v. Dilbeck, 122 Ga.App. 214(16), 176 S.E.2d 715 (1970), and held that "[a]n act or omission may amount to negligence under the particular facts and circumstances, although there is no statute so declaring." Georgia Kraft, 188 Ga.App. at 624, 373 S.E.2d 774. The Georgia Court of Appeals failed to consider O.C.G.A. §§ 32-6-50 and 32-6-51(a) or the fact that the GCPT had been enacted after Wright v. Dilbeck was decided.

Wall v. Southern Ry. Co. involved a pedestrian plaintiff who was struck by one of the defendant railroad's trains while crossing two parallel railroad tracks at their intersection with a city street and brought action against the railroad for his injuries. Wall, 196 Ga. App. at 483, 396 S.E.2d 266. When plaintiff approached the tracks, one of the railroad's trains was stopped, blocking half of the crossing. Id. at 483-484, 396 S.E.2d 266. After waiting for some time, plaintiff followed two other pedestrians around the stationary train and was struck by another of the railroad's trains traveling on the parallel track. Id. at 484, 396 S.E.2d 266. The Georgia Court of Appeals, in considering the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the railroad, cited the Georgia Kraft case for the proposition that the failure by the railroad to employ additional precautions "may amount to negligence under the particular facts and circumstances, although there is no statute so declaring." Wall, 196 Ga. App. at 485, 396 S.E.2d 266. The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and held that triable issues existed as to whether the railroad was negligent. Id. at 486, 396 S.E.2d 266. Once again the Georgia Court of Appeals failed to consider O.C.G.A. §§ 32-6-50 and 32-6-51(a).

In Central of Georgia Ry. Co. v. Markert, parents of a driver who was killed when his vehicle was struck at a...

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2 cases
  • Evans Timber Co. v. Central of Ga. R. Co.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 22, 1999
    ...on a public road where the railroad has not been requested to do so by the appropriate governmental entity. See CSX Transp. v. Trism Specialized Carriers, 9 F.Supp.2d 1374 (1998) (holding that the GCPT supercedes a common-law cause of action for the failure to install adequate warning devic......
  • Bentley v. Csx Transp., Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Georgia
    • June 26, 2006
    ...company's common law duty to install traffic control and warning devices at grade crossings in CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Trism Specialized Carriers, Inc., 9 F.Supp.2d 1374 (N.D.Ga.1998). The court found that the GCPT superseded this state common law duty. 9 F.Supp.2d at 1379. This court b......

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