Hinson v. Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) Rail et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 12/6/2017. (sat, Chambers)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
Civil Action No. DKC 16-0792
MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION
(MTA) RAIL, et al.
negligence case are (1) the motion for summary judgment filed by
Defendants Maryland Transit Administration (“MTA”) and National
“Defendants”) (ECF No. 63); (2) the motion to strike Plaintiff’s
response filed by Defendants (ECF No. 65); and (3) the motion to
(“Plaintiff”) (ECF No. 66).
The issues have been fully briefed,
and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary.
Local Rule 105.6.
For the following reasons, the motion to
strike will be denied, the motion to allow for late filing will
be granted, and the motion for summary judgment will be granted.
On January 23, 2013, Plaintiff took a train operated by
Defendants from Baltimore, Maryland, to New Carrolton, Maryland.
Unless otherwise noted, the facts outlined here are
undisputed and construed in the light most favorable to
For the ride, she sat on the second deck of the train.
At New Carrolton, she waited for the train to stop
and went to the stairs.
Five seconds after the train initially
stopped, the train suddenly moved and Plaintiff fell down the
stairs. (ECF Nos. 2 ¶¶ 7-8; 64-2, at 3).
George’s County, Maryland, on January 15, 2016.
(ECF No. 2).
Defendant Amtrak removed the case to federal court.
Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No.
Plaintiff responded 21 days later even though Local Rule
105.2.a requires a response be filed within fourteen days.
Defendants replied and moved to strike the response.
(ECF No. 65).
Plaintiff responded to the motion to strike and
(ECF No. 67).
Choice of Law & Jurisdiction
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, “The district courts shall
have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under
incorporated corporations under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.”
Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp., 315 F.3d 756, 758 n.1 (7th
In re Rail Collision Near Chase, Md. on Jan. 4, 1987
jurisdiction for Amtrak because of its Congressional charter).2
state law creates [the] cause of action . . . [the] right to
relief under state law requires resolution of a . . . question
Laborers Vacation Tr. for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 13 (1983).
substantive law that creates the cause of action.
(concluding that New Jersey substantive law applied to a tort
action against Amtrak).
Therefore, as this was a negligence
rules in this court.
III. Motion for leave for late filing and Motion to Strike
Plaintiff filed her response to Defendants’ motion late.
(ECF No. 65).
Plaintiff then moved to allow for the
(ECF No. 66).
Defendant Amtrak misstates the basis for the court’s
jurisdiction as 28 U.S.C. § 1349. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 3). 28 U.S.C. §
1349 acts as a limit on jurisdiction and does not provide any
affirmative grant of jurisdiction.
time sought after expiration of the specified time period.
extension even after the expiration of a specified time period,
but only for “cause shown” and if the failure to act in a timely
The Supreme Court of the United States defined the
meaning of excusable neglect in Pioneer Investment Services Co.
v. Brunswick Associates Ltd. Partnership, 507 U.S. 380 (1993), a
case dealing with late filings in bankruptcy proceedings.
defining neglect, the Supreme Court reasoned that courts could
To ascertain whether a delay in filing is excusable,
courts must consider “all relevant circumstances surrounding the
Id. at 395.
Here, Plaintiff avers that her delay in filing was due to a
mistake about the timeline within which to file a response.
(ECF No. 66).
This mistake resulted in only a week delay, and
Plaintiff’s motion to allow for late filing will be granted, and
Defendants’ motion to strike will be denied.
Motion for Summary Judgment
Standard of Review
A motion for summary judgment will be granted only if there
exists no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986); Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008).
generally bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact.
Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at
A dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party.”
Id. at 248.
In undertaking this
inferences drawn therefrom “in the light most favorable to the
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting United
States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)); see also
EEOC v. Navy Fed. Credit Union, 424 F.3d 397, 405 (4th Cir.
2005), but a “party cannot create a genuine dispute of material
Shin v. Shalala, 166 F.Supp.2d 373, 375 (D.Md. 2001) (citation
“To establish a cause of action in negligence a plaintiff
must prove the existence of four elements: a duty owed to him
(or to a class of which he is a part), a breach of that duty, a
duty and the harm suffered, and damages.”
Bank of Md., 307 Md. 527, 531 (1986).
Jacques v. First Nat.
Defendants are common
See Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. Seymour,
387 Md. 217, 224 (2005).
Maryland law provides:
A common carrier is not an insurer of the
safety of its passengers, but is bound to
employ the highest degree of care for their
safety, consistent with the nature of the
undertaking. It owes its passengers a duty
to deliver them to their destination as
expeditiously as possible, consistent with
Although routinely expressed in these terms, see, e.g. Todd v.
Mass Transit Admin., 373 Md. 149, 156-57 (2003), as with any
other duty, the requirements of the duty and whether a breach
See Seymour, 387 Md. at 224 (“Thus, when a passenger
suffers injury while onboard a common carrier . . . and the
passenger thereafter sues the common carrier under a negligence
theory, the pivotal question to determine is whether the act of
introduce evidence to show how a reasonable common carrier would
act in the situation that faced the defendant.
See Brooks v.
Lewin Realty III, Inc., 378 Md. 70, 85 n.5 (2003) (“This is the
essence of a negligence action, as ‘negligence is a failure to
do what the reasonable [person] would do “under the same or
similar circumstances.”’”) (quoting William L. Prosser, The Law
of Torts § 32 (4th ed. 1971) (alteration in the original)); Jones
v. Balt. Transit Co., 211 Md. 423 (1956) (affirming a directed
When presented with a situation that an average
person would face in everyday life, then, from the facts of the
appropriate degree of care and whether the defendant failed to
use “that caution, attention, or skill a reasonable person would
use under similar circumstances.” Chamberlain v. Denny’s Inc.,
situation involves the conduct of a professional and requires
standard for the trier of fact.”
Schultz v. Bank of Am., N.A.,
(concluding that expert testimony was necessary to establish the
standard of care for a bank when allowing an individual to be
added to an existing bank account); see Royal Ins. Co. of Am. v.
recommending a settlement), modified by Royal Ins. Co. of Am. v.
Puppolo v. Adventist Healthcare, Inc., 215 Md.App. 517 (2013)
patients breached the duty to a patient in determining a plan of
plaintiff has failed to provide sufficient evidence to establish
negligence and the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter
Rodriguez v. Clarke, 400 Md. 39, 71 (2007) (“If proof
of [the required degree of care] is lacking, ‘the court may
rule, in its general power to pass upon the sufficiency of the
jury.’”) (quoting Fink v. Steele, 166 Md. 354, 361 (1934)).
combination of factors not within the knowledge of the average
Bridger v. Union Ry. Co., 355 F.2d 382, 389 (6th Cir.
1966); accord Collins ex rel. Kay v. Seaboard Coast Line R.R.
Co., 675 F.2d 1185, 1195 (11th Cir. 1982).
The average juror
does not know how to start a train, how to drive a train, or how
to stop a train.
Likewise, the average juror would not know
what causes a train to jerk and what could be done to prevent a
sudden movement of the train. Thus, the standard of care – how a
reasonably prudent train operator would run a train — requires
expertise outside the knowledge of the average juror.
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
District Court for the District of Columbia in Frick v. Amtrak,
54 F.Supp.3d 1 (D.D.C. 2014).
There, a plaintiff sued Amtrak
after he was knocked off his feet by a sudden movement of the
Id. at 2.
Plaintiff testified that the train had left
the station late and appeared to be going faster than usual.
In that case, because “the standards governing
the operation of train operators are distinctly related to an
occupation that is ‘beyond the ken of the average layperson,’”
the case “present[ed] a clear situation where an expert [was]
required to establish the national standard of care.”
(internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).
Id. at 4
Plaintiff points out that Defendants’ witnesses, including an
(ECF No. 64-1, at 13).3
stopping is a safety issue.
also states, in conclusory fashion, “The negligent movement of
the train in this case is based on a common-sense safety issue .
. . not beyond the ken of the average juror.”
(Id. at 12-13).
Plaintiff fails to comprehend the elements she must prove to
occurrence of an event – the movement of the train – that the
Defendants acted negligently.
Although likely correct that the
average juror would know that the movement of a train is a
safety risk, Plaintiff needs to show not only that what happened
was potentially dangerous but also that the occurrence was the
result of some form of negligent conduct of the Defendants.
Without an explanation as to how or why the train moved, the
type of explanation an expert would provide, Plaintiff cannot
In their reply, Defendants interpret this as an argument
that Plaintiffs could use the Defendants’ witnesses as experts
to satisfy the requirement of an expert. (ECF No. 65, at 6-9).
This does not appear to be Plaintiff’s argument.
If it were,
and even assuming the witnesses could be qualified as experts by
Defendants’ conduct fell below a reasonable standard of care.
Rather, they asserted that the train is allowed to move after
stopping under the applicable safety standards. (ECF Nos. 63-5,
at 10; 63-6, at 14).
show that Defendants’ conduct fell below a reasonable level and,
therefore, cannot prevail.4
Accordingly, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment will
(ECF No. 63).
Defendants’ arguments that Plaintiff
was contributorily negligent and assumed the risk do not need to
For the foregoing reasons, the motion for late filing filed
strike filed by Defendants MTA and Amtrak will be denied, and
the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants MTA and
Amtrak will be granted.
A separate order will follow.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW
United States District Judge
Plaintiff never mentions the doctrine of res ipsa
The doctrine allows for a jury to infer negligence
from the occurrence of an event, but to invoke res ipsa loquitur
a plaintiff must show the event is the type that does not
ordinarily occur absent negligence.
Gillespie v. Ruby Tuesday,
Inc., 861 F.Supp.2d 637, 642 (D.Md. 2012).
could not invoke res ipsa loquitur because she has failed to
offer evidence that a train does not readjust in the absence of
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