Tyrrell v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co., No. 99-4505

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtSILER
Citation248 F.3d 517
Parties(6th Cir. 2001) Frederick W. Tyrrell, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company, Defendant-Appellee. Argued:
Docket NumberNo. 99-4505
Decision Date31 January 2001

Page 517

248 F.3d 517 (6th Cir. 2001)
Frederick W. Tyrrell, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Norfolk Southern Railway Company, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 99-4505
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
Argued: January 31, 2001
Decided and Filed: April 25, 2001

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Toledo. No. 98-07690, David A. Katz, District Judge.

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Copyrighted Material Omitted

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Frank E. Van Bree, James L. Farina, HOEY, FARINA & DOWNES, Chicago, Illinois, Steven P. Garmisa, James K. Genden, TORSHEN, SPREYER, GARMISA & SLOBIG, Chicago, Illinois, for Appellant.

Thomas J. Antonini, James R. Knepp II, ROBISON, CURPHEY & O'CONNELL, Toledo, Ohio, Jack K. Zouhary, S.E. Johnson Companies, Inc., Maumee, OH, for Defendant.

Michael E. Robinson, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION, APPELLATE SECTION, Washington, D.C., for Amici Curiae.

Evelyn G. Kitay, SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae.

James Lacey O'Connell, LINDHORST & DREIDAME, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Amici Curiae.

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Before: NORRIS, SILER, and BRIGHT, Circuit Judges*.

OPINION

SILER, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Frederick W. Tyrrell appeals the district court's grant of partial summary judgment to Defendant Norfolk Southern Railway Company. The lower court held that under the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act ("ICCTA"), the Surface Transportation Board's ("STB") exclusive regulatory jurisdiction over rail construction preempts the Ohio track clearance regulation upon which Tyrrell based his negligence per se claim under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"). Tyrrell argues that the district court erred as the Federal Railway Safety Act ("FRSA") is the proper statute for assessing whether the Ohio track requirement is preempted. We REVERSE the district court's decision and REMAND for further proceedings in conformity with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

Tyrrell worked as a trainman for Norfolk Southern at its railroad yard in Bellevue, Ohio. One night in 1998, he was walking between tracks No. 3 and 4 when a car traveling on track No. 3 struck him. As he fell, his right foot rolled under the car's wheels. As a result of his severe injuries, his lower right leg was amputated.

Tyrrell instituted an action against Norfolk Southern under the FELA, 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq., alleging that the railroad failed to provide him with a safe place to work by negligently and carelessly using an unreasonably dangerous track clearance in violation of state law. Norfolk Southern moved for partial summary judgment, contending that the Ohio track clearance regulation at issue was preempted under the ICCTA's jurisdiction provision for the STB, 49 U.S.C. §10501(b). The district court granted the railroad's motion.

II. DISCUSSION

This court reviews a grant of summary judgment de novo. See CSX Transp., Inc. v. City of Plymouth, 86 F.3d 626, 627 (6th Cir. 1996) (citing City Mgmt. Corp. v. United States Chemical Co., 43 F.3d 244, 250 (6th Cir. 1994)). Summary judgment is appropriate "[i]f 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). As a matter of law, statutory construction issues are reviewed de novoon appeal. See United States v. Davis, 187 F.3d 528, 531 (6th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted).

Ohio Admin. Code 4901:3-1-04 requires that any new construction or reconstruction of main lines, passing tracks, and yard tracks involved in rail switching must provide at least 14 feet of clearance between the centers of adjacent and parallel tracks. Constructed after the promulgation of this requirement, the Bellevue rail yard has a track clearance of 13 feet and 9 inches. FELA provides that common railroad carriers engaged in interstate commerce are liable for damages to employees who suffer injuries due to the negligence of a carrier's officers, agents, or employees or by reason of any defect or

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insufficiency in its cars, track, roadbed, or other equipment due to a carrier's negligence. See 45 U.S.C. §51. As Tyrrell's injuries arose from a workplace accident involving a track area that did not comply with Ohio Admin. Code 4901:3-1-04, he brought this FELA action.

This case presents a statutory construction question regarding two federal railroad statutes and their preemptive effect on Ohio's track clearance regulation. In its summary judgment analysis, the district court classified Ohio Admin. Code § 4901:3-1-04 as primarily a construction requirement and limited its analysis to the ICCTA's preemption provision, 49 U.S.C. § 10501(b), which provides the STB with exclusive jurisdiction to regulate rail carriers' construction and operation of rail switches, side tracks, and facilities. The trial court also stated that even if it assumed the regulation addressed workplace safety, the ICCTA remained the proper statute for analysis as "one of the express purposes" of the Act was to encourage "safe and suitable working conditions in the railroad industry" under 49 U.S.C. § 10101(11). On this basis, the district court held that the ICCTA preempted Ohio Admin. Code 4901:3-1-04 because its express preemption clause applies to state regulations impacting rail construction or rail safety.

In contrast, Tyrrell, along with the United States and the STB as amici curiae, construe the state regulation as one dealing with rail safety, thus requiring analysis under the FRSA's preemption provision, 49 U.S.C. § 20106, which provides the Federal Railroad Administration ("FRA") with the authority to regulate rail safety. For this case, the applicable preemption and saving clauses state that:

Laws, regulations, and orders related to railroad safety shall be nationally uniform to the extent practicable. A State may adopt or continue in force a law, regulation, or order related to railroad safety until the Secretary of Transportation prescribes a regulation or issues an order covering the subject matter of the state requirement.

49 U.S.C. § 20106 (emphasis added). Tyrrell further argues that the district court's broad interpretation of the ICCTA's jurisdiction over rail construction under 49 U.S.C. § 10501(b) repeals by implication the current federal and state rail safety regulatory system developed under FRSA. This concern is shared by the United States and the STB.

In response, Norfolk Southern argues that the district court's decision does not stand for the proposition that the ICCTA preempts FRSA or any other federal statute dealing with rail safety. Rather, it simply asserts the ICCTA's broad-based authority to preempt state construction regulations like Ohio Admin. Code 4901:3-4-041. In addition, Norfolk Southern argues that the core preemption question is not what the stated purpose of the state rail law is, but whether its effect falls within the ICCTA's broad jurisdiction. For support, it cites CSX Transp., Inc. v. City of Plymouth, 92 F. Supp. 2d 643 (E.D. Mich. 2000) (notice of appeal filed

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May 12, 2000) (hereinafter Plymouth II). In Plymouth II, the district court examined a Michigan train speed regulation under the ICCTA and the FRSA. While the district court ruled that FRSA preempted the state regulation to the extent it regulated rail safety factors like train speed, train length and air brake performance, it also held that § 10501(b)'s construction language preempted the state regulation as it required railroads to make substantial capital improvements. See Plymouth II, 92 F. Supp. 2d at 658-59. Norfolk Southern thus interprets Plymouth II to mean that the Ohio track clearance regulation is preempted because it affects rail construction and the ICCTA assigns the STB exclusive jurisdiction over rail construction.

In its amicus brief on behalf of the railway, the Association of American Railroads ("AAR") also emphasizes that both the ICCTA and FRSA manifest an express congressional intent to preempt state law to...

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41 practice notes
  • Railroad consolidations, mergers, and acquisitions of control: Safety integration plans,
    • United States
    • Federal Register March 15, 2002
    • March 15, 2002
    ...parts of the affected statutes are given effect and the purposes of Congress are fully carried out. Tyrrell v. Norfolk Southern Rwy. Co., 248 F.3d 517, 523 (6th Cir. 2001) (FRA's and the STB's ``complementary exercise of their statutory authority accurately reflects Congress's intent for th......
  • Union Pacific R. Co. v. California Public Utilities, No. 01-15141.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 17, 2003
    ...rather than determining that no regulation was necessary, the state can legitimately seek to fill this gap. See Tyrrell v. Norfolk S. Ry., 248 F.3d 517, 525 (6th Cir.2001) ("[N]o evidence in this case demonstrates that the FRA considered track clearance requirements and explicitly deci......
  • Elam v. the Kan. City Southern Ry. Co., No. 10–60227.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • March 15, 2011
    ...may enforce) rail safety laws in certain circumstances. See 49 U.S.C. § 20106(a)(2), (b)(1); see also Tyrrell v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 248 F.3d 517, 523 (6th Cir.2001) (“[T]he ICCTA and its legislative history contain no evidence that Congress intended for the STB to supplant the FRA's author......
  • Swinomish Indian Tribal Cmty. v. BNSF Ry. Co., No. 18-35704
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • March 4, 2020
    ...because it is possible to harmonize the ICCTA with those federally recognized regulations."); Tyrrell v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. , 248 F.3d 517, 522–23 (6th Cir. 2001) (holding Congress did not intend for the ICCTA to repeal the Federal Railway Administration's authority under the Federal R......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • Gordon v. New England Cent. R.R., Case No. 2:17-cv-00154
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • October 10, 2019
    ...analyzing whether a state law, regulation or order affecting rail safety is pre-empted by federal law."); Tyrrell v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 248 F.3d 517, 524 (6th Cir. 2001) (holding that where a regulation has a "connection with rail safety . . . [the] FRSA provides the applicable standard fo......
  • People v. Burlington N. Santa FE R.R., No. A133559.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 16, 2012
    ...No. 135. In its special verdict, the trial court explained its reasoning: “[I]n Tyrrell v. Norfolk Southern [ Ry. Co.] (6th Cir.2001) 248 F.3d 517 [ ( Tyrrell ) ], plaintiff sued the railway in tort for injuries sustained while working, basing his claim on the railroad's alleged violation o......
  • Kaisha v. Burlington and Northern Santa Fe Railway, No. CV 03-6523GAFRZX.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • April 8, 2005
    ...is preempted." Iowa, Chicago & E. R.R. Corp. v. Washington County, Iowa, 384 F.3d 557, 560 (8th Cir.2004); Tyrrell v. Norfolk S. Ry., 248 F.3d 517, 522 (6th Cir.2001). Thus, the Court will examine only FRSA...
  • People v. Burlington N. Santa Fe Railroad, No. A133559.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 16, 2012
    ...No. 135. In its special verdict, the trial court explained its reasoning: “[I]n Tyrrell v. Norfolk Southern [ Ry. Co.] (6th Cir.2001) 248 F.3d 517 [ ( Tyrrell ) ], plaintiff sued the railway in tort for injuries sustained while working, basing his claim on the railroad's alleged violation o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 provisions
  • Railroad consolidations, mergers, and acquisitions of control: Safety integration plans,
    • United States
    • Federal Register March 15, 2002
    • March 15, 2002
    ...parts of the affected statutes are given effect and the purposes of Congress are fully carried out. Tyrrell v. Norfolk Southern Rwy. Co., 248 F.3d 517, 523 (6th Cir. 2001) (FRA's and the STB's ``complementary exercise of their statutory authority accurately reflects Congress's intent for th......
  • Part III
    • United States
    • Federal Register August 25, 2009
    • August 25, 2009
    ...such as Ohio's regulation of minimum track clearances in rail yards found not to be preempted in Tyrrell v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Co., 248 F.3d 517 (6th Cir. It is a settled principle of statutory construction that, if the statute is clear and unambiguous, it must be applied according to its......

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