Haukereid v. National Passenger Railroad Corporation
ORDER granting 71 Motion for Summary Judgment. All other motions, 77 , 79 , 81 , and 83 are denied as moot. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 11/4/2014. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
SCOTT HAUKEREID, Individually and as
Personal Representative and Administrator
of the Estate of Andrew Haukereid, Jr., deceased
NATIONAL PASSENGER RAILROAD
CORPORATION, d/b/a Amtrak
For the reasons stated on the record at the end of the 30 October 2014
hearing, and as supplemented here, Amtrak's motion for summary judgment
is granted. Here's the summary. Haukereid's warnings claim is pre-empted
by 49 C.F.R. § 239.107. Haukereid' s door claim is not pre-empted by 49 C.F.R.
§ 238.235. A reasonable jury could conclude, taking the facts in the light most
favorable to Haukereid, that the railroad violated its duty of care by not
passing along information between crews about Haukereid' s confusion, not
being more vigilant about his circumstances, and not providing more training
to crew members about the exit dangers faced by older travelers, especially
at night. How Haukereid got off this train, though, remains unexplained.
And the jury would have to speculate among alternatives: an accidental exit
prompted by mental confusion and a door mistake; an accident involving a
window or door opened by someone else; or perhaps an exit involving a third
party. But no one knows what happened, or can know with sufficient
certainty, based on the existing record.
Nothing of record supports an inference of suicide by this energetic
older man who was headed to a family celebration of his eightieth birthday.
So the law's presumption against harming oneself holds, and the Court
doesn't consider that a reasonable possibility. Pennsylvania Railroad Co. v.
Pomeroy, 239 F.2d 435,438 n.1 (D.C. Cir. 1956). A third person's involvement
is possible, but seems unlikely given the lack of record evidence about motive
or anyone else being in the vestibule. The jury would, the Court concludes,
be left to speculate between the remaining two possibilities. Precedent
doesn't allow this. St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co. v. Pennington, 261 Ark. 650,
662-63,553 S.W.2d 436,441-42 (1977); Donnelly v. National Railroad Passenger
Corp. (Amtrak), 16 F.3d 941, 946 (8th Cir. 1994); see also Pomeroy, 239 F.2d at
443; Harris v. National Passenger Railroad Corp., 79 F. Supp. 2d 673,678-80 (E. D.
Whatever Haukereid' s mental state that early morning, it doesn't
compare with Kiilsgaard' s epileptic seizures, which a doctor concluded
caused this passenger to mistake the exit for a bathroom and rush out.
Kiilsgaard v. Amtrak, No. 93318, *2 (Super. Ct. Cty. Monterey June 12, 1997),
affd Kiilsgaard v. Amtrak, No. H017553 (Cal. App. 6th June 30, 1999) (not
certified for publication). No speculation was required for the fact finder to
conclude that the railroad's failure to do more to protect Kiilsgaard was a
proximate cause of his death. Here, by contrast, causation is not addressed
by the medical evidence.
A word about the doors. Haukereid' s experts could not say with
sufficient certainty that any of their recommended changes would have
prevented Haukereid' s leaving the train. Speculation about the actual events
necessarily clouds the analysis (whether of engineering, design, or human
factors) about difficult features and systems, and whether their absence made
any difference. Just like the experts, a jury couldn't say without speculating
that the absence of the door features led, in a natural and continuous
sequence, to Haukereid's death. Pennington, 261 Ark. at 662-63, 553 S.W.2d
at441-42; Donnelly, 16 F.3d at 946.
Finally, the estate's allegations about what Amtrak did and didn't do
during the investigation fail as a matter of law. The Court dismissed the
outrage claim. NQ 21. And Arkansas wouldn't recognize a claim for negligent
infliction of emotional distress in the circumstances presented. FMC Corp., Inc.
v. Helton, 360 Ark. 465,481,202 S.W.3d 490,502 (2005).
Amtrak's motion for summary judgment, NQ 71, is granted. All other
motions- NQ 77, 79, 81, & 83- are denied as moot.
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
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