Union Pacific Railroad Co v. Taylor Truck Line Inc et al
RULING re 188 MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment Regarding Allegations of Inadequate Training of the Train Crew filed by Union Pacific Railroad Co. Signed by Judge Robert G James on 3/1/17. (crt,Crawford, A)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 15-0074
JUDGE ROBERT G. JAMES
TAYLOR TRUCK LINE, INC., ET AL.
MAG. JUDGE KAREN L. HAYES
--(consolidated with)-R & L BUILDERS SUPPLY, INC., ET AL.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 15-2460
JUDGE ROBERT G. JAMES
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY,
MAG. JUDGE KAREN L. HAYES
Pending before the Court is an unopposed Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Regarding
Allegations of Inadequate Training of the Train Crew [Doc. No. 188] filed by Union Pacific Railroad
Co. (“Union Pacific”). For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED,
and opposing parties are precluded from presenting testimony or arguing to the jury that the Union
Pacific train crew were not properly trained or instructed or were not qualified to operate the
locomotive and train.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On October 5, 2014, Shackleford was operating a 2013 Kenworth tractor with trailer and
dolly (hereinafter “tractor trailer”) loaded with a Terex RT-780 crane. The tractor trailer was owned
by College City, but leased to Taylor Truck.1
Taylor Logistics was the shipment broker.
At approximately 1:00 p.m., Shackleford was driving the tractor trailer south on U.S.
Highway 165 in Mer Rouge, Louisiana. At the intersection of 165 and U.S. Highway 425/La.
Highway 2, Shackleford stopped at the stop sign and then turned left onto U.S. Highway 425/La.
Highway 2. He then proceeded to a highway/railway grade crossing over a Union Pacific main line
railroad track. The crossing is protected by railroad pavement markings, crossbuck signs, flashing
lights, gates, and bells.
As Shackleford attempted to drive over the crossing, the tractor trailer became lodged,
straddling the tracks. He exited the tractor to attempt to extricate the trailer, but did not notify law
enforcement or Union Pacific.
According to Shackleford, approximately two minutes later, before he could extricate the
tractor trailer, a Union Pacific train traveling north on the track, which runs parallel to U.S. Highway
165/La. Highway 138, began to approach the crossing. The train activated its flashing lights, bell,
and crossing gate. At the time of the accident, Union Pacific engineer, Russell Rowe, was operating
the lead locomotive, and Union Pacific conductor, James Kovalyshyn, was in the cab as well. When
they saw the tractor trailer at the crossing, crew members applied the emergency brakes in an effort
to avoid the collision. The crew members were unsuccessful, and the train collided with the trailer
and attached crane. As a result of the collision, approximately 17 railroad cars and 2 locomotives
left the railroad tracks, cargo spilled, and a tank car leaked Argon onto surrounding property,
including land owned by R & L Properties of Oak Grove, LLC.
On January 14, 2015, Plaintiff Union Pacific brought the instant suit against Taylor Truck,
Taylor Logistics, Shackleford, and College City.2 On November 4, 2015, a lawsuit filed by R & L
Properties of Oak Grove, LLC, and R & L Builders Supply, Inc., was consolidated with this lawsuit.
After discovery was complete, Union Pacific filed the instant motion, anticipating that the
trucking company defendants or the R & L plaintiffs might argue or present evidence that Union
Pacific was negligent for allowing the train to be operated by an inadequately trained or instructed
locomotive engineer and conductor. Despite extensive briefing on numerous motions in this case,
no party filed an opposition memorandum to Union Pacific’s motion.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Standard of Review
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), “[a] party may move for summary judgment,
identifying each claim or defense--or the part of each claim or defense--on which summary judgment
is sought. The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The
moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion by identifying
portions of the record which highlight the absence of genuine issues of material fact. Topalian v.
Ehrmann, 954 F.2d 1125, 1132 (5th Cir. 1992); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1) (“A party asserting
that a fact cannot be . . . disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of
materials in the record . . . ). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would
affect the outcome of the lawsuit under applicable law in the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
Union Pacific, Builders Supply, and Properties all later amended to assert claims against
the Robert G. Taylor Irrevocable Trust and against Robert G. Taylor, individually and as trustee
of the Robert G. Taylor Irrevocable Trust. Those claims have since been dismissed either with or
without prejudice and are no longer pending in this Court.
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that
a reasonable fact finder could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.
Unless the moving party meets its initial burden, the Court may not grant a motion for
summary judgment, even if the motion is unopposed. Hetzel v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 50 F.3d 360,
362 (5th Cir. 1995). However, pursuant to Local Rule 56.2, since no party filed an opposition and
statement of contested material facts, Union Pacific’s statement of uncontested material facts is
deemed admitted for purposes of this motion. LR 56.2 (“All material facts set forth in the statement
required to be served by the moving party will be deemed admitted, for purposes of the motion,
unless controverted as required by this rule.).
Training of Crew
Union Pacific asserts that it is entitled to summary judgment on issues related to the training
or instruction of its crew because such claims or defenses are preempted by federal law and thus
The Supremacy Clause to the United States Constitution provides that “the Laws of the
United States . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” U.S. Const., ART. VI, CL.2. Congress has
the power under the Supremacy Clause to preempt state law. “Preemption occurs when Congress
expresses a clear intent to occupy a particular field.” Michigan Southern R.R. Co. v. City of
Kendallville, IN, 251 F.3d 1152, 1153 (2001).
The Federal Railway Safety Act (“FRSA”) was enacted to “promote safety in every area of
railroad operations and reduce railroad-related accidents and incidents.” 49 U.S.C. § 20101. The
FRSA contains an express preemption3 provision:
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.
A State may adopt or continue in force a law, regulation, or
order related to railroad safety or security until the Secretary
of Transportation (with respect to railroad safety matters), or
the Secretary of Homeland Security (with respect to railroad
security matters), 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–
is not incompatible with a law, regulation, or order of
the United States Government; and
is necessary to eliminate or reduce an essentially local
safety or security hazard;
does not unreasonably burden interstate commerce.
Clarification regarding State law causes of action.--(1) Nothing in this
section shall be construed to preempt an action under State law
In addition to express preemption, the Supreme Court has recognized “field preemption
where state law intrudes in an area that Congress has reserved for federal jurisdiction,” and
“conflict preemption, where enforcement of state law cannot be accomplished while
simultaneously complying with federal law.” Friberg v. Kansas City S. Ry. Co., 267 F.3d 439,
442 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing English v. General Electric Co., 496 U.S. 72 (1990)).
On August 3, 2007, Congress enacted the Implementing Regulations of the 9/11
Commission Act of 2007, Pub.L. 110-53, 121 Stat. 266, which among other actions, amended the
preemption provision of 49 U.S.C. § 20106. This amendment did not change the previous
preemption law, but clarified “that when a party alleges that a railway failed to comply with a
federal standard of care established by regulation or with its own plan, rule or standard created
pursuant to a federal regulation, preemption will not apply.” Henning v. Union Pac. R.R. Co.,
530 F.3d 1206, 1215 (10th Cir. 2008); see also Grade v. BNSF Ry. Co., 676 F.3d 680, 684-85
(8th Cir. 2012).
seeking damages for personal injury, death, or property damage
alleging that a party–
has failed to comply with its own plan, rule, or
standard that it created pursuant to a regulation or
order issued by either of the Secretaries; or
has failed to comply with the Federal standard of care
established by a regulation or order issued by the
Secretary of Transportation (with respect to railroad
safety matters), or the Secretary of Homeland Security
(with respect to railroad security matters), covering
the subject matter as provided in subsection (a) of this
has failed to comply with a State law, regulation, or
order that is not incompatible with subsection (a)(2).
This subsection shall apply to all pending State law causes of
action arising from events or activities occurring on or after
January 18, 2002.
Jurisdiction.--Nothing in this section creates a Federal cause of action
on behalf of an injured party or confers Federal question jurisdiction
for such State law causes of action.
49 U.S.C. § 20106.
Despite the express preemption provision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth
Circuit has found that “FRSA preemption is even more disfavored than preemption generally.”
United Transp. Union v. Foster, 205 F.3d 851, 860 (5th Cir.2000) (citing Rushing v. Kansas City
S. Ry. Co., 185 F.3d 496, 515 (5th Cir.1999)).
The restrictive terms of its preemption provision “indicate[ ] that pre-emption will
lie only if the federal regulations substantially subsume the subject matter of the
relevant state law.” CSX Transp., Inc. v. Easterwood, 507 U.S. 658, 664, 113 S.Ct.
1732, 123 L.Ed.2d 387 (1993) (emphasis added). When applying FRSA preemption,
the Court eschews broad categories such as “railroad safety,” focusing instead on the
specific subject matter contained in the federal regulation. See id. at 665-75, 113
S.Ct. 1732. In sum, when deciding whether the FRSA preempts state laws designed
to improve railroad safety, we interpret the relevant federal regulations narrowly to
ensure that the careful balance that Congress has struck between state and federal
regulatory authority is not improperly disrupted in favor of the federal government.
Id. Thus, the Court turns to the regulations at issue.
In this case, the Secretary of Transportation has promulgated regulations which set the
“[f]ederal safety standards for the eligibility, training, testing, certification and monitoring” of
locomotive engineer, so that “only qualified persons operate a locomotive or train.” 49 C.F.R. §
240.1. The Secretary has further established federal safety standards for the eligibility, training,
testing, certification, and monitoring of conductors. See 49 C.F.R. § 242. These standards are
clearly within federal authority, and claims by opposing parties for inadequate training or instruction
are preempted unless they can meet the showing required by subsection (b).
As the opposing parties do not identify any federal standard or internal rule that Union Pacific
violated in the training or instruction of its crew, or otherwise meet the requirements of subsection
(b), any claims of negligent or inadequate training or instruction by the opposing parties are
precluded. See Lombary v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Co., Cause No. 1:12-CV-210, 2014 WL 2468612,
at * (N.D. Ind. June 3, 2014) (“Plaintiff’s claims for negligent training, education, instruction,
supervision, and qualification are precluded by the FRSA . . . . the Secretary of Transportation issued
comprehensive regulations covering the subjects of training, instruction, education, qualification,
and supervision of railroad employees (Parts 217 and 240) and it is undisputed that Norfolk complied
with the federal operating and training rules.”); see also Union Pac. R. Co. v. California Pub.
Utilities Comm'n, 346 F.3d 851, 868 (9th Cir. 2003) (“It is clear that the federal training regulations
do ‘substantially subsume’ the subject of employee training.”); Carter v. National R.R. Passenger
Corp., 63 F. Supp.3d 1118, 1155 (N.D. Ca. 2014).
For the foregoing reasons, Union Pacific’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Regarding
Allegations of Inadequate Training of the Train Crew [Doc. No. 188] is GRANTED. Opposing
parties are precluded from presenting testimony or arguing to the jury that the Union Pacific train
crew were not properly trained or instructed or were not qualified to operate the locomotive and
MONROE, LOUISIANA, this 1st day of March, 2017.
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