Winslow v. Montana Rail Link, Inc., No. 99-483.

Docket NºNo. 99-483.
Citation16 P.3d 992, 2000 MT 292, 302 Mont. 289
Case DateNovember 27, 2000

16 P.3d 992
2000 MT 292
302 Mont. 289

Gary WINSLOW, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
MONTANA RAIL LINK, INC., a Montana corporation, Defendant and Respondent

No. 99-483.

Supreme Court of Montana.

Submitted on Briefs June 1, 2000.

Decided November 27, 2000.


16 P.3d 994
Erik Thueson and Jamie Towe; Thueson & Lamb, Helena, MT, For Appellant

Ronald MacDonald and Darla Keck; Datsopoulos, MacDonald & Lind, Missoula, MT, For Respondent.

Justice W. WILLIAM LEAPHART delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶ 1 Gary Winslow (Winslow) appeals from the First Judicial District Court's Memorandum and Order dismissing Counts I, II and III of Winslow's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and granting summary judgment to Montana Rail Link (MRL) on Count IV seeking punitive damages. Winslow also appeals the District Court's denial of his motion to amend his complaint and asks this Court to rule on an unresolved discovery issue. We reverse in part, affirm in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Background

¶ 2 Winslow began working for MRL in 1987. Prior to working for MRL, he was employed by the Milwaukee Railroad from 1965 to 1976. His employment with MRL was subject to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between his union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and MRL. The CBA contains provisions relating to discipline and establishes an appeals and hearing process requiring that an employee such as Winslow cannot be dismissed without just cause and without a fair and impartial fact-finding session.

¶ 3 In the fall of 1995, while performing job related duties for MRL, Winslow felt a sudden pain in his groin. He filled out a personal injury form explaining that he had pulled a muscle in his groin. He saw a doctor who suggested surgery. Winslow reported to MRL that his doctor felt this was a hernia and that it required surgery. Winslow underwent surgery in September of 1995 and subsequently returned to work on light duty. On December 20, 1995 he received a written order from MRL to attend a disciplinary hearing to address his "fail[ure] to provide factual information regarding [his] injury." Specifically, MRL's accusation was that since Winslow had failed to report that he had a hernia three years earlier, his claim was fraudulent. The disciplinary hearing was held and the Special Board of Adjustment (Board) found that Winslow's hernia was a pre-existing injury, unrelated to his employment with MRL. The Board concluded that "[MRL] had the right to terminate [Winslow] for his obvious dishonesty," and Winslow was terminated.

¶ 4 Winslow did not appeal the Board's decision to federal court. Rather, he filed a claim in state court alleging that he lost his job due to MRL's mismanagement and misconduct. He also requested damages for infliction of mental distress and for punitive damages. MRL moved to dismiss Winslow's claims for Mismanagement, Violation of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, Common Law Wrongful Discharge, and Emotional Distress for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and moved for summary judgment as to Punitive Damages. The District Court granted the motions to dismiss and for summary judgment.

Issues

¶ 5 We restate the issues on appeal as follows:

¶ 6 1. Did the District Court err in dismissing the claim for negligent mismanagement for lack of subject matter jurisdiction?

¶ 7 2. Did the District Court err in dismissing the claim for Violation of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing?

¶ 8 3. Did the District Court err in dismissing the Common Law Claim for Wrongful Discharge?

¶ 9 4. Did the District Court err in dismissing the claim for Emotional Distress?

¶ 10 5. Did the District Court err in granting summary judgment on Punitive Damages?

16 P.3d 995
¶ 11 6. Did the District Court abuse its discretion in denying Winslow's motion to amend his complaint

¶ 12 7. Should this Court resolve a discovery dispute which was not addressed by the District Court?

Standard of Review

¶ 13 Motions to dismiss should not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Hilands Golf Club v. Ashmore (1996), 277 Mont. 324, 328, 922 P.2d 469, 471-72. In considering such motions, the complaint is construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all allegations of fact contained therein are taken as true. The District Court's determination that it did not have jurisdiction over this case is a conclusion of law. Pike v. Burlington N.R.R. Co. (1995), 273 Mont. 390, 392-93, 903 P.2d 1352, 1353. We review a district court's conclusions of law to determine whether the court's interpretation of the law is correct. Hilands Golf Club, 277 Mont. at 328, 922 P.2d at 472.

Discussion

¶ 14 1. Did the District Court err in dismissing the claim for negligent mismanagement for lack of subject matter jurisdiction ?

¶ 15 In his complaint, Winslow alleges that MRL negligently "mismanaged" its investigation into the hernia injury and, thus, MRL is subject to liability under § 39-2-703, MCA. MRL argues, however, that § 39-2-703, MCA, applies only to personal injuries and not to wrongful discharges from employment. It contends that Winslow's claim is properly characterized as a wrongful discharge claim and is preempted by the Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act (WDEA).

1(a): Is § 39-2-703, MCA, limited to personal injury claims?

¶ 16 Section 39-2-703(1), MCA, provides:

(1) Every person or corporation operating a railway or railroad in this state is liable for all damages sustained by any employee of such person or corporation in consequence of the neglect of any other employee thereof or by the mismanagement of any other employee thereof and in consequence of the willful wrongs, whether of commission or omission, of any other employee thereof when such neglect, mismanagement, or wrongs are in any manner connected with the use and operation of any railway or railroad on or about which he is employed. No contract which restricts such liability is legal or binding.

¶ 17 In analyzing this statute, the District Court noted that there are very few cases interpreting the statute and all such cases were decided early in the twentieth century. Those cases all involve injured workers and none involve the termination of an employee. For example, in Lewis v. Northern Pacific Ry. Co. (1907), 36 Mont. 207, 218, 92 P. 469, 473, the Court stated that the purpose of the statute is "to secure the safety of employees...." As the District Court noted, however, Lewis was proceeding under subsection (3) (railroad liability for injuries caused by negligence of engineer) rather than subsection (1), the provision which Winslow invokes. After plowing through the convoluted syntax of subsection (1), the District Court concluded:

Subsection (1) of 39-2-703, MCA, certainly is not easy to read. However, the last clause states when it applies, that is, a railway corporation is liable when the neglect, mismanagement or wrong is connected with the use and operation of a railway or railroad. The Court concludes, therefore, that the statute is intended to protect employees from personal injuries caused by co-workers. It does not provide a cause of action for wrongful termination.

¶ 18 We agree with Winslow that the District Court's interpretation of the above language is too restrictive. Courts should not insert language into a statute that the legislature has omitted. Section 1-2-101, MCA; MacMillan v. State Compensation Ins. Fund (1997), 285 Mont. 202, 206-08, 947 P.2d 75, 77-79. Furthermore, we are required to interpret statutes according to their plain meaning. Curtis v. District Court (1994), 266 Mont. 231, 235, 879 P.2d 1164, 1166.

16 P.3d 996
¶ 19 We find nothing in the language of § 39-2-703(1), MCA, which suggests that it is limited to personal injuries caused by co-workers. Rather, in very broad language, it states that railways are "liable for all damages sustained by any employee" as a consequence of the "mismanagement" of any other employee when such mismanagement is "connected with the use and operation" of any railway. Although personal injury resulting from the neglect of a co-worker would be included within the ambit of the statute, so are damages which result from mismanagement connected with the operation of the railroad. We agree with Winslow that, since the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq., has, for very nearly a century, controlled compensation for physical injuries to railroad workers, it only makes sense that the legislature, in keeping § 703 codified, envisions the statutory language of § 39-2-703, MCA, as broader in scope than FELA, as encompassing more than personal injuries

¶ 20 The District Court erred in concluding that § 39-2-703, MCA, applies only to personal injury claims, to the exclusion of mismanagement in the handling of an employee termination.

1(b): Is § 39-2-703, MCA, preempted by WDEA?

¶ 21 The District Court reasoned that because Winslow's claim is for wrongful discharge, the WDEA applies. Except as provided in § 39-2-912, MCA, the WDEA is the exclusive remedy for wrongful discharge. Section 39-2-912(2), MCA, states that the WDEA does not apply to the discharge of an employee covered by a CBA. The District Court concluded that (1) since Winslow is covered by a CBA, he has no claim for wrongful discharge under the WDEA, and (2) since his claim for "mismanagement" requires construction of the CBA, the claim is preempted by the Railroad Labor Act (RLA).

¶ 22 We agree with the District Court's first proposition. Since Winslow is an employee covered by a collective bargaining agreement, the WDEA has no application to his claim. Section 39-2-912(2), MCA.

¶ 23 As to the second proposition, the fact that Winslow is an...

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16 practice notes
  • Favel v. American Renovation and Const. Co., No. 01-514.
    • United States
    • 26 d2 Novembro d2 2002
    ...plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Winslow v. Montana Rail Link, Inc., 2000 MT 292, ¶ 13, 302 Mont. 289, ¶ 13, 16 P.3d 992, ¶ 13 (citing Hilands Golf Club v. Ashmore (1996), 277 Mont. 324, 328, 922 P.2d 469, 471-72). "In......
  • Dannels v. BNSF Ry. Co., DA 19-0343
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 23 d2 Março d2 2021
    ...whether and to what extent Dannels is subject to a CBA governed by the RLA, LMRA, or both.11 Accord Winslow v. Montana Rail Link, Inc. , 2000 MT 292, ¶¶ 14-27, 302 Mont. 289, 16 P.3d 992 (state statutory wrongful discharge and non-injury-based negligent railroad management claims not preemp......
  • Brenden v. City of Billings, DA 19-0067
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 31 d2 Março d2 2020
    ...is entitled to judgment as a matter of law are conclusions of law reviewed de novo for correctness. Winslow v. Mont. Rail Link, Inc. , 2000 MT 292, ¶ 38, 302 Mont. 289, 16 P.3d 992. We must view the Rule 56 factual record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reas......
  • Winslow v. Montana Rail Link, Inc., No. 03-743.
    • United States
    • 6 d4 Outubro d4 2005
    ...initially dismissed Winslow's claim for lack of jurisdiction, which was reversed by this Court in Winslow v. Montana Rail Link, Inc., 2000 MT 292, ¶ 27, 302 Mont. 289, ¶ 27, 16 P.3d 992, ¶ 27 (Winslow I). After remand, the case went to trial and the jury concluded that MRL had acted neglige......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • Favel v. American Renovation and Const. Co., No. 01-514.
    • United States
    • 26 d2 Novembro d2 2002
    ...plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Winslow v. Montana Rail Link, Inc., 2000 MT 292, ¶ 13, 302 Mont. 289, ¶ 13, 16 P.3d 992, ¶ 13 (citing Hilands Golf Club v. Ashmore (1996), 277 Mont. 324, 328, 922 P.2d 469, 471-72). "In......
  • Dannels v. BNSF Ry. Co., DA 19-0343
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 23 d2 Março d2 2021
    ...whether and to what extent Dannels is subject to a CBA governed by the RLA, LMRA, or both.11 Accord Winslow v. Montana Rail Link, Inc. , 2000 MT 292, ¶¶ 14-27, 302 Mont. 289, 16 P.3d 992 (state statutory wrongful discharge and non-injury-based negligent railroad management claims not preemp......
  • Brenden v. City of Billings, DA 19-0067
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 31 d2 Março d2 2020
    ...is entitled to judgment as a matter of law are conclusions of law reviewed de novo for correctness. Winslow v. Mont. Rail Link, Inc. , 2000 MT 292, ¶ 38, 302 Mont. 289, 16 P.3d 992. We must view the Rule 56 factual record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reas......
  • Winslow v. Montana Rail Link, Inc., No. 03-743.
    • United States
    • 6 d4 Outubro d4 2005
    ...initially dismissed Winslow's claim for lack of jurisdiction, which was reversed by this Court in Winslow v. Montana Rail Link, Inc., 2000 MT 292, ¶ 27, 302 Mont. 289, ¶ 27, 16 P.3d 992, ¶ 27 (Winslow I). After remand, the case went to trial and the jury concluded that MRL had acted neglige......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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