Lorincie v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Auth., Civil Action No. 95-7107.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
Writing for the CourtPollak
Citation34 F.Supp.2d 929
PartiesCharles LORINCIE v. SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY v. Coach & Car Equipment Co.
Decision Date29 September 1998
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 95-7107.
34 F.Supp.2d 929
Charles LORINCIE
v.
SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY
v.
Coach & Car Equipment Co.
Civil Action No. 95-7107.
United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania.
September 29, 1998.

Page 930

Robert A. Kosseff, Robert A. Kosseff and Associates, Philadelphia, PA, for Charles Lorincie, Ellen Lorincie, Beth Lorincie.

Richard A. Kraemer, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman and Goggin, Philadelphia, PA, for Coach & Car Equipment Company, TMB Associates, Inc.

OPINION

POLLAK, District Judge.


On January 5, 1998, defendant Coach & Car Equipment Co. ["Coach & Car"] filed a Motion for Summary Judgment for the claims brought against it by plaintiffs Charles and Ellen Lorincie for injuries allegedly suffered by Mr. Lorincie while attempting to operate a Coach & Car engineer's cab seat in the train in which he worked. Mr. Lorincie, who alleges that he was injured while seeking to move the seat from its upright to its closed position, states that he has suffered severe back injuries and is permanently disabled. The Lorincies claim that the seat was defectively and negligently designed, and that defendant breached the implied warranty of merchantability. Coach & Car asserts that the Locomotive Boiler Inspection Act, 49 U.S.C. §§ 20701-20903 ["BIA" or "Act"], preempts all state common law remedies against railroad manufacturers for injuries arising out of alleged design defects in trains, and that the Lorincies' claims must therefore be dismissed with prejudice. Plaintiffs deny that the BIA preempts such claims.

I.

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the moving party establishes that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In the face of a motion for summary judgment asserting the absence of evidence to support the non-movant's claim, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986), the non-movant must make an evidentiary showing, based on the affidavits, depositions and admissions of record, sufficient, if credited by the fact-finder, to establish the existence of every element essential to the non-movant's claim. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Harter v. GAF Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 852 (3d Cir.1992). The non-movant's evidence must relate to factual disputes that are "material", i.e., disputes that under the substantive law could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Conclusory allegations in pleadings or briefs do not suffice to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Pastore v. Bell Telephone Co. of Pennsylvania, 24 F.3d 508, 511 (3d Cir.1994). Nor do conclusory allegations in an affidavit. Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990). In determining whether an issue of material fact exists, a court must construe evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

Defendant here claims that there is no genuine issue of material fact because plaintiffs' claims — all of which sound in state common law — are preempted under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution by the BIA. If defendant is correct, then by definition there are no genuine issues of material fact, since plaintiffs have no claims, and the motion must be granted. If the claims are not preempted, however, then every aspect of the complaint denied by the defendant remains material, and the motion must be denied.

II.

The Supremacy Clause states that "the Laws of the United States ... shall be

Page 931

the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." U.S. Const. Art. VI, cl. 2. Generally, "where a state statute conflicts with or frustrates federal law, the former must give way." CSX Transp. Inc., v. Easterwood, 507 U.S. 658, 663, 113 S.Ct. 1732, 123 L.Ed.2d 387 (1993). A court considering a preemption claim should "start with the assumption that the historic police powers of the States [are] not to be superseded" unless Congress has indicated that preemption is its "clear and manifest purpose." Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 505 U.S. 504, 516, 112 S.Ct. 2608, 120 L.Ed.2d 407 (1992) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Such an assumption should reach the level of a strong presumption where the federal law is directed at subjects "traditionally governed" by the states, such as health and safety. CSX, 507 U.S. at 664, 113 S.Ct. 1732. Congressional intent "may be explicitly stated in the statute's language or implicitly contained in its structure and purpose." Id. As a doctrinal matter, preemption has been divided into three categories: express preemption, where Congress specifies preemption in the text of an act; field preemption, where federal regulation is so pervasive that one may reasonably infer that Congress intended to dominate the field and preclude state laws; and conflict preemption, where federal and state law actually conflict and a private party cannot possibly comply with both requirements. English v. General Electric Co., 496 U.S. 72, 78-79, 110 S.Ct. 2270, 110 L.Ed.2d 65 (1990). The three categories, however, are mere manifestations of a single underlying question: did Congress intend preemption? Id. The party claiming preemption carries the burden of proving such intent. De Canas v. Bica, 424 U.S. 351, 96 S.Ct. 933, 47 L.Ed.2d 43 (1976).

A.

The Supreme Court addressed the issue of BIA preemption in Napier v. Atlantic Coast Line R.R., 272 U.S. 605, 47 S.Ct. 207, 71 L.Ed. 432 (1926). Napier consolidated two cases in which railroad carriers had sought to enjoin state officials from enforcing state laws prohibiting use of railroads not equipped with prescribed devices: in one case a statute requiring an automatic door to the firebox, in the other a regulation requiring a cab curtain.1 In a unanimous opinion, the Court held that "state legislation is precluded, because the [BIA], as we construe it, was intended to occupy the field." Id. at 613, 47 S.Ct. 207. The defendant state officials had contended that the field should be defined by the aim of the federal legislation — railroad safety — rather than by its subject — locomotive equipment — and that state legislation aimed at employee health should therefore be permitted because it regulated a different field. Justice Brandeis, writing for the Court, rejected that view, finding the field determined by its "subject" — locomotive equipment — not its purpose. Id. at 612, 47 S.Ct. 207. The state officials had further contended that because the administrative agency charged with implementing the BIA had not issued regulations concerning fireboxes and cab curtains, the states were free to regulate in those areas. Napier's rejection of this contention was unequivocal: "The fact that the [administrative agency] has not seen fit to exercise its authority to the full extent conferred, has no bearing upon the construction of the act delegating the power." Id. at 613, 47 S.Ct. 207.

Napier thus precludes two of plaintiffs' primary attempts to distinguish their case. Plaintiffs claim that because engineer's seats are not heavily regulated by the BIA, the Act does not preclude state common law claims regarding them. In Napier, however, the administrative agency had failed to issue any regulations regarding the relevant locomotive parts; the Court nevertheless found preemption. In this case, where the agency has issued a regulation (albeit a one-line regulation irrelevant to plaintiffs' claimed defects2), state regulation would also

Page 932

be preempted. The unregulated or thinly regulated status of a locomotive part does not render it immune to preemption under Napier.

Similarly, Napier defeats plaintiffs' claim that the BIA only preempts state law regulation of locomotive parts related to railroad safety. One could plausibly draw a line between locomotive equipment related and unrelated to railroad safety, and correctly claim that state law dealing with railroad safety has been the subject of almost...

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5 practice notes
  • Scheiding v. General Motors Corp., No. S073196.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 9, 2000
    ...them into it, and federalism and history counsel leaving them out." (Lorincie v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Auth. (E.D.Pa.1998) 34 F.Supp.2d 929, The majority assert that the BIA "`contains no evidence Congress assumed or intended state remedies for design defects would be preserved.......
  • Roth v. I & M Rail Link, L.L.C., No. 3-00-CV-10053.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • October 12, 2001
    ...manufacturer), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 958, 121 S.Ct. 383, 148 L.Ed.2d 295 (2000). But see Lorincie v. Southeastern Penn. Transp. Auth., 34 F.Supp.2d 929 (E.D.Pa.1998) (holding that LIA did not preempt state common-law claims against railroad manufacturers that were not also carriers; Act di......
  • General Motors Corp. v. Kilgore
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • December 20, 2002
    ...Green Indus., Inc., 184 Misc.2d 603, 707 N.Y.S.2d 299 (Sup.Ct.2000) (same). But see Lorincie v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Auth., 34 F.Supp.2d 929 (E.D.Pa.1998) (the BIA does not preempt common-law claims against railroad manufacturers that are not also We agree with the reasoning of......
  • Wright v. General Elec. Co., No. 2006-CA-000080-MR.
    • United States
    • Kentucky Court of Appeals
    • November 30, 2007
    ...bring a state law contribution claim against a manufacturer of a railroad locomotive); Lorincie v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp., 34 F.Supp.2d 929 (E.D.Pa.1998) (Boiler Inspection Act does not preempt state common law claims against railroad manufacturers that are not also Ultimately, w......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Scheiding v. General Motors Corp., No. S073196.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 9, 2000
    ...them into it, and federalism and history counsel leaving them out." (Lorincie v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Auth. (E.D.Pa.1998) 34 F.Supp.2d 929, The majority assert that the BIA "`contains no evidence Congress assumed or intended state remedies for design defects would be preserved.......
  • Roth v. I & M Rail Link, L.L.C., No. 3-00-CV-10053.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • October 12, 2001
    ...manufacturer), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 958, 121 S.Ct. 383, 148 L.Ed.2d 295 (2000). But see Lorincie v. Southeastern Penn. Transp. Auth., 34 F.Supp.2d 929 (E.D.Pa.1998) (holding that LIA did not preempt state common-law claims against railroad manufacturers that were not also carriers; Act di......
  • General Motors Corp. v. Kilgore
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • December 20, 2002
    ...Green Indus., Inc., 184 Misc.2d 603, 707 N.Y.S.2d 299 (Sup.Ct.2000) (same). But see Lorincie v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Auth., 34 F.Supp.2d 929 (E.D.Pa.1998) (the BIA does not preempt common-law claims against railroad manufacturers that are not also We agree with the reasoning of......
  • Wright v. General Elec. Co., No. 2006-CA-000080-MR.
    • United States
    • Kentucky Court of Appeals
    • November 30, 2007
    ...bring a state law contribution claim against a manufacturer of a railroad locomotive); Lorincie v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp., 34 F.Supp.2d 929 (E.D.Pa.1998) (Boiler Inspection Act does not preempt state common law claims against railroad manufacturers that are not also Ultimately, w......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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