Guckenberg v. Wisconsin Cent. Ltd., No. 00-CV-691.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtRanda
Citation178 F.Supp.2d 954
PartiesPeter GUCKENBERG and Susan Guckenberg, Plaintiffs, v. WISCONSIN CENTRAL LTD. and FOX VALLEY & WESTERN LTD., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 00-CV-691.
Decision Date19 December 2001
178 F.Supp.2d 954
Peter GUCKENBERG and Susan Guckenberg, Plaintiffs,
v.
WISCONSIN CENTRAL LTD. and FOX VALLEY & WESTERN LTD., Defendants.
No. 00-CV-691.
United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin.
December 19, 2001.

Page 955

Charles D. Koehler, Herrling Clark Hartzheim & Siddall, Appleton, WI, for Plaintiffs.

James A. Fletcher, James D. Helenhouse, Fletcher & Sippel, Chicago, IL, for Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

RANDA, District Judge.


The defendants, Wisconsin Central Ltd. and Fox Valley & Western Ltd. (collectively "WCL"), are both Illinois corporations which provide rail transportation services in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan ("U.P."). On March 30, 2000, the plaintiffs, Peter and Susan Guckenberg ("the Guckenbergs"), residents of the Town of Menasha, Wisconsin, commenced a suit against WCL in the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. The complaint alleges that the defendants' actions in operating railway traffic amounts to a common law nuisance under Wisconsin law, unreasonably interfering with the use and enjoyment of their property. The

Page 956

action was properly removed to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Now before the Court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment. WCL argues that the plaintiffs' cause of action is preempted by the ICC Termination Act of 1995 ("ICCTA"). Also before the Court is the plaintiffs' motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. For the reasons stated below, WCL's motion for summary judgment is granted, the Guckenbergs' motion for leave to file an amended complaint is denied, and the case is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

WCL operates three principal rail lines. Defendant's Proposed Findings of Fact ("DPFF"), ¶¶ 5-6. The first line runs from Schiller Park in Chicago through Fond du Lac, Wisconsin to Neenah, Wisconsin. The second line runs west and north from Neenah to Owen, Wisconsin, where it splits, with one portion running to Superior, Wisconsin and the other portion running to St. Paul, Minnesota (the "St. Paul/Superior line.") The third line runs north and east from Neenah to Green Bay, Wisconsin and then north to the U.P. (the "Green Bay line.") DPFF, ¶ 7.

Because it facilitates the movement of cars on all three of its rail lines, the freight yard at Neenah plays a critical role in WCL's day-to-day operations. This, in addition to significant growth in the overall amount of WCL's rail traffic, caused the freight yard in Neenah to become a "clogged bottleneck." Id., ¶ 17. Accordingly, in 1997, WCL decided to build two new "side tracks," one north of Neenah and one south of Neenah. These side tracks allow trains operating in opposite directions on the mainline near Neenah to safely and efficiently pass each other. The new tracks also provide track capacity for cars that could not be handled in the Neenah yard. Id., ¶¶ 19-22. For one of the side tracks, WCL decided on a location between Stroebe Road and Towman Road near Menasha. Id., ¶ 24.

The Guckenbergs reside at 2286 W. Butte des Morts Road, Menasha, just outside of Neenah. They built their home in 1991 on land that had been owned by the Guckenberg family since the 1800's. Amended Complaint, ¶ 4. WCL's new track switching system, completed in 1998, was built directly across the street from the Guckenbergs' residence. Their home is 170 feet from the new side track. Id., ¶ 7. Plaintiffs allege that the coupling and uncoupling of trains, squealing of wheels, braking noises, slamming of cars, switching direction of train travel, flying switches of railroad cars, idling locomotive diesel engines and other similar incidents occur as many as 60 times per month, lasting as long as several hours per episode. Id., ¶ 9. Plaintiffs seek redress under Wisconsin's common law of nuisance and pray for both actual and punitive damages.

ANALYSIS

I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS

Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

Summary judgment is no longer a disfavored remedy. "Summary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed `to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.'" Id. at 327, 106 S.Ct.

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2548. It "can be a tool of great utility in removing factually insubstantial cases from crowded dockets, freeing courts' trial time for those that really do raise genuine issues of material fact." United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local No. 88 v. Middendorf Meat Co., 794 F.Supp. 328, 330 (E.D.Mo.1992). Thus, "the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). While a material fact is one that is "outcome determinative under the governing law", Whetstine v. Gates Rubber Co., 895 F.2d 388, 392 (7th Cir.1990), a genuine issue as to that material fact is raised only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. A "district judge faced with [a summary judgment motion] must decide, subject of course to plenary appellate review, whether the state of the evidence is such that, if the case were tried tomorrow, the plaintiff would have a fair chance of obtaining a verdict. If not, the motion should be granted and the case dismissed." Palucki v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 879 F.2d 1568, 1572-73 (7th Cir.1989) (citations omitted). Therefore, summary judgment should be utilized "when it can be shown that a trial would serve no useful purpose." Windham v. Wyeth Laboratories, Inc., 786 F.Supp. 607, 610 (S.D.Miss. 1992).

II. PREEMPTION

A. General Principles

Article VI of the United States Constitution states that "the Laws of the United States ... shall be the supreme Law of the Land; ... any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." U.S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2. Accordingly, a state law which conflicts with federal law is "without effect." Maryland v. Louisiana, 451 U.S. 725, 746, 101 S.Ct. 2114, 68 L.Ed.2d 576 (1981). Courts have recognized three categories of preemption: (1) express preemption, where Congress' intent to preempt state law is "explicitly stated in the statute's language or implicitly contained in its structure and purpose." Jones v. Rath Packing Co., 430 U.S. 519, 525, 97 S.Ct. 1305, 51 L.Ed.2d 604 (1977); (2) field preemption, where federal law "thoroughly occupies a legislative field." Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 505 U.S. 504, 516, 112 S.Ct. 2608, 120 L.Ed.2d 407 (1992); and (3) conflict preemption, where "it is impossible for a private party to comply with both state and federal requirements or where state law `stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of...

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15 practice notes
  • Fox v. Norfolk S. Corp., A17A0319
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 23, 2017
    ...monetary damages resulting from noise and smoke coming from a newly-constructed side track); Guckenberg v . Wisconsin Central Ltd. , 178 F.Supp.2d 954, 958 (II) (B) (E. D. Wis. 2001) (state law nuisance claims seeking compensatory and punitive damages for interference with plaintiff's use a......
  • Pcs Phosphate Co., Inc. v. Norfolk Southern Corp., No. 4:05-CV-55-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • September 28, 2007
    ...alleged road blockages of road leading to plaintiff's business preempted by section 10501(b)); Guckenberg v. Wis. Cent. Ltd., 178 F.Supp.2d 954, 958-60 (E.D.Wis.2001) (state law nuisance claim pertaining to railway traffic preempted by section 10501(b)); CSX Transp., Inc. v. City of Plymout......
  • New England Cent. R.R. v. Springfield Terminal, No. CIV.A. 04-30235-MAP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • February 3, 2006
    ...properties because "ICCTA preempts state common law claims with respect to railroad operations"); Guckenberg v. Wisconsin Cent. Ltd., 178 F.Supp.2d 954 (E.D.Wisc.2001) (preempting state law claim regarding noise from activity on railroad sidetracks, because operation of a sidetrack intended......
  • Irish v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe R. Co., No. 08-cv-469-slc.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Western District of Wisconsin
    • July 7, 2009
    ...of dispute the Act preempts, which is "all state regulatory authority over railroad operations." Guckenberg v. Wisconsin Central Ltd., 178 F.Supp.2d 954, 957 (E.D.Wis.2001) (emphasis added). This case does not involve an attempt to interfere with the regulation of a railroad or an effort to......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Fox v. Norfolk S. Corp., A17A0319
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 23, 2017
    ...monetary damages resulting from noise and smoke coming from a newly-constructed side track); Guckenberg v . Wisconsin Central Ltd. , 178 F.Supp.2d 954, 958 (II) (B) (E. D. Wis. 2001) (state law nuisance claims seeking compensatory and punitive damages for interference with plaintiff's use a......
  • Pcs Phosphate Co., Inc. v. Norfolk Southern Corp., No. 4:05-CV-55-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • September 28, 2007
    ...alleged road blockages of road leading to plaintiff's business preempted by section 10501(b)); Guckenberg v. Wis. Cent. Ltd., 178 F.Supp.2d 954, 958-60 (E.D.Wis.2001) (state law nuisance claim pertaining to railway traffic preempted by section 10501(b)); CSX Transp., Inc. v. City of Plymout......
  • New England Cent. R.R. v. Springfield Terminal, No. CIV.A. 04-30235-MAP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • February 3, 2006
    ...properties because "ICCTA preempts state common law claims with respect to railroad operations"); Guckenberg v. Wisconsin Cent. Ltd., 178 F.Supp.2d 954 (E.D.Wisc.2001) (preempting state law claim regarding noise from activity on railroad sidetracks, because operation of a sidetrack intended......
  • Irish v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe R. Co., No. 08-cv-469-slc.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Western District of Wisconsin
    • July 7, 2009
    ...of dispute the Act preempts, which is "all state regulatory authority over railroad operations." Guckenberg v. Wisconsin Central Ltd., 178 F.Supp.2d 954, 957 (E.D.Wis.2001) (emphasis added). This case does not involve an attempt to interfere with the regulation of a railroad or an effort to......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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