Ill. Cent. R.R. Co. v. Cryogenic Transp., Inc.

Decision Date30 September 2012
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 3:09CV473–HTW–LRA.
Citation901 F.Supp.2d 790
PartiesILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY, Plaintiff v. CRYOGENIC TRANSPORTATION, INC., et al, Defendants. Clydine Daniel, in her capacity as Administratrix/executrix/personal Representative of the Estate of Michael Daniel, Deceased; Clydine Daniel, individually, Counter–Plaintiff v. Illinois Central Railroad Company, Counter–Defendant One Beacon America Insurance Company, Intervenor Plaintiff.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Mississippi

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Jeremy L. Birdsall, George H. Ritter, Wise, Carter, Child & Caraway, Jackson, MS, for Plaintiff.

Roy A. Smith, Jr., Roy A. Smith, Jr.Thomas R. Julian, Daniel, Coker, Horton & Bell, Jackson, MS, Emily Hornsby Nelson, Birmingham, AL, Larry W. Morris, Morris, Haynes & Hornsby, Alexander City, AL, for Defendants.

Mark D. Lumpkin, James R. Reeves, Jr., Lumpkin, Reeves & Mestayer, PLLC, Biloxi, MS, for Counter–Plaintiff.

Walter Michael Gillion, Michael Gillion, PC, Mobile, AL, for Intervenor Plaintiff.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART SUMMARY JUDGMENT

HENRY T. WINGATE, District Judge.

In this lawsuit, defendant and counter-plaintiff Clydine Daniel (C. Daniel) has filed counter-claims against the original plaintiff, Illinois Central Railroad Company (ICRR), accusing ICRR of negligently causing the death of her husband, Michael Daniel (M. Daniel), when an ICRR train collided with the decedent's tanker-truck at a railroad crossing. ICRR filed this tort lawsuit alleging M. Daniel's negligence and seeking recompense from M. Daniel's employer and M. Daniel's estate for, among other things, damage to the train, railroad tracks, and right-of-way. All parties and claims have been dismissed or settled, except C. Daniel's counter-claims against ICRR.

Now before this court is ICRR's motion for summary judgment on C. Daniel's counter-claims [docket no. 268]. Also before the court are: a motion to bifurcate filed by ICRR [docket no. 266]; three motions filed by ICRR to exclude the testimony of C. Daniel's expert witnesses [docket nos. 273, 275, and 298]; a motion for leave to file excess pages filed by ICRR [docket no. 290]; and a motion to set/reset hearings filed by C. Daniel [docket no. 305].

I. Procedural History and Jurisdiction

On August 11, 2009, ICRR filed the underlying lawsuit in this federal court pursuant to this court's diversity subject matter jurisdiction, Title 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)1. The plaintiff, ICRR, an Illinois corporation with its principal place of business in the State of Illinois, accused M. Daniel, now deceased, of negligently operating his tractor-trailer truck and causing a collision between M. Daniel's truck and an ICRR train at a grade crossing in Star, Mississippi. ICRR sued Cryogenic Transportation, Inc., M. Daniel's employer, and C. Daniel, the administratrix, executrix, and personal representative of the decedent, M. Daniel. M. Daniel was a resident of Alabama. His widow C. Daniel, the defendant and counter-plaintiff, is a resident of Alabama. Cryogenic Transportation, Inc., is a Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place of business in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. The amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, exclusive of costs and interest.

With her answer to ICRR's complaint, C. Daniel filed the counter-claims now before this court against ICRR in her individual capacity, on behalf of M. Daniel's wrongful death beneficiaries, and as the personal representative of the estate of M. Daniel. Answer and counter claim, docket no. 9.

This court has subject matter jurisdiction over the original claims made by ICRR under Section 1332(a), and has supplemental jurisdiction, pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 1367,2 over these counter-claims, which are compulsory under Fed.R.Civ.P. 13(a).3

In addition to her claims against ICRR, C. Daniel has asserted claims of negligence against the following: Airgas Carbonics, Inc., a Mississippi corporation with its principal place of business in Georgia; the Mississippi Department of Transportation; Rankin County, Mississippi; Canadian National Railway (“CNR”), a Canadian corporation with its principal place of business in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Grand Trunk Corporation, a Delaware Corporation with its principal place of business in Delaware; and Illinois Central Corporation, a Delaware Corporation with its principal place of business in Delaware. 4

The train engineer, James Roberts, and conductor, Marcus Lovette, both Mississippi residents, sued Cryogenic and C. Daniel as a result of the subject collision. Marcus Lovette's lawsuit (Civil Action No. 5:10–cv–80–DCB–JRR) was consolidated with this case. James Robert filed a complaint as an intervenor in this lawsuit.

All claims between C. Daniel and these additional parties have been dismissed or resolved through settlement. The only claims remaining in this lawsuit are the counter-claims filed by C. Daniel against ICRR.

II. Facts

On the morning of July 26, 2009, at the time of the mishap in question, M. Daniel was driving an eighteen-wheeler truck as an employee of Cryogenic Transportation. Amended counter-claim, ¶ 8, docket no. 80. He was on the premises of the Airgas Carbonics, Inc.'s (“Airgas”) plant in Star, Mississippi. Once he filled his truck with liquid carbon dioxide, he exited the plant and began to cross the railroad crossing at Andrew Jackson Circle. This conjunction was identified in the federal crossing inventory as United States Department of Transportation No. 305437D. Id. The railroad crossing encompasses three sets of tracks: the spur track, which leaves the mainline and enters the Airgas facility; a mainline, which is owned and operated by ICRR; and another set of tracks, which traverse Dixie Road where it meets Andrew Jackson Circle. Id.; see survey of existing conditions, docket no. 284–5.

M. Daniel left the Airgas plant and turned north onto Andrew Jackson Circle. He crossed the first set of tracks—the spur entering Airgas—and the cab of his truck crossed over the mainline tracks. Suddenly, an ICRR locomotive traveling east to west collided with the tanker of his truck. Amended counter-claim, ¶ 8, docket no. 80. The tanker immediately exploded, destroying the truck.5 M. Daniel was expelled from the cab. He died two days later. 6Id.

III. Summary Judgment
A. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate “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 that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322–23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In response to a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must provide specific proof demonstrating a triable issue of fact as to each of the elements required to establish the claim asserted. Washington v. Armstrong World Indus., 839 F.2d 1121, 1122–23 (5th Cir.1988). The court must resolve all reasonable doubts about the existence of a genuine issue of material fact against the movant. Byrd v. Roadway Express, Inc., 687 F.2d 85, 87 (5th Cir.1982).

B. Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”) and Pre-emption

Illinois Central Railroad asks this court to dismiss a number of C. Daniel's negligence claims, alleging that the FRSA pre-empts them. First the court will review the pre-emptive effect of the FRSA on state law-based causes of action. The FRSA only pre-empts state law where the Secretary of Transportation has promulgated regulations covering the subject matter. The court, then, will evaluate each of C. Daniel's claims of negligence in the context of regulation which has been promulgated by the Secretary of Transportation governing the subject of those claims.

The United States Congress enacted the FRSA in 1970 “to promote safety in all areas of railroad operations and to reduce railroad-related accidents and incidents.” Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. Shanklin, 529 U.S. 344, 347, 120 S.Ct. 1467, 1471, 146 L.Ed.2d 374 (2000) (citing Title 49 U.S.C. § 20101) (“Shanklin ”). The Act grants the Secretary of Transportation authority to “prescribe regulations and issue orders for every area of railroad safety.” Id. (citing Title 49 U.S.C. § 20103(a)). The FRSA specifically addresses the issue of railroad crossing grades, saying “the Secretary of Transportation shall maintain a coordinated effort to develop and carry out solutions to the railroad grade crossing problem.” Id. (citing Title 49 U.S.C. § 20134(a)).

The Act prescribes its own pre-emptive effect on state law, and includes a savings clause which allows state law legislation and claims in areas where the Secretary of Transportation has not promulgated regulation. Id. at 347–48, 120 S.Ct. 1467 (citing Title 49 U.S.C. § 20106). The pre-emption and savings clause states:

(a) National uniformity of regulation.

(1) Laws, regulations, and orders related to railroad safety and laws, regulations, and orders related to railroad security shall be nationally uniform to the extent practicable.

(2) A State may adopt or continue in force a law, regulation, or order related to railroad safety or security until the Secretary of Transportation [...] prescribes a regulation or issues an order covering the subject matter of the State requirement. A State may adopt or continue in force an additional or more stringent law, regulation, or order related to railroad safety or security when the law, regulation, or order—

(A) is necessary to eliminate or reduce an essentially local safety or security hazard;

(B) is not incompatible with a law, regulation, or order of the United States Government; and

(C) does not unreasonably burden interstate commerce.

Under this Section, if the Secretary of Transportation issues a regulation that “covers” the same subject as state law, it pre-empts that state law. Shanklin, 529 U.S. at 352, 120 S.Ct. 1467. An area is “covered,” and thus...

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