Bentley v. Illinois Central Railroad Company
MEMORANDUM OPINION re 18 Order on Motion to Dismiss. Signed by District Judge Sharion Aycock on 8/10/2015. (psk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:15-cv-00001-SA-JMV
ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD
Plaintiff Terry Bentley was employed by Defendant Illinois Central Railroad Company as
a machine operator. While on the job in January 2014, Plaintiff claims he was instructed to “pull
up and unload a piece of compromised rail” and was injured when the rail rolled onto his foot
and ankle. Plaintiff reported the injury to Defendant, and an investigation into the incident was
launched in February 2014. According to the Complaint , Plaintiff was terminated at the
conclusion of the investigation for violating safety rules.
Plaintiff initiated this present action pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 20109(d)(3), seeking to hold
Defendant liable for violating the Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”) by retaliating against
Plaintiff for reporting a work-related injury. Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss , arguing
Plaintiff’s FRSA claim is barred by that Act’s election of remedies provision due to Plaintiff
seeking protection under “another provision of law” prior to filing this instant case. In particular,
Defendant asserts Plaintiff filed a Title VII anti-retaliation claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) prior to filing this suit for the “same allegedly unlawful act of the railroad
Motion to Dismiss Standard
“A motion to dismiss under rule 12(b)(6) is viewed with disfavor and rarely granted.”
Lowrey v. Texas A & M Univ. Sys., 117 F.3d 242, 247 (5th Cir. 1997) (quoting Kaiser Aluminum
& Chem. Sales v. Avondale Shipyards, 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th Cir. 1982). “The ultimate
question in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is whether the complaint states a valid claim when all wellpleaded facts are assumed true and are viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Lone
Star Fund V (U.S.), L.P. v. Barclays Bank PLC, 594 F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing In re
Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007)). “[T]o survive a motion to
dismiss, a complaint must . . . ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Gonzalez v.
Kay, 577 F.3d 600, 603 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 556 U.S.
662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009) (2009)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
Discussion and Analysis
Defendant argues that this instant case should be dismissed because the election of
remedies provision of the FRSA bars Plaintiff’s claim for relief. Congress enacted the FRSA in
1970 “to promote safety in all areas of railroad operations and reduce railroad-related accidents
and injuries to persons . . . .” CSX Transp., Inc. v. Easterwood, 507 U.S. 658, 661, 113 S. Ct.
1732, 123 L. Ed. 2d 387 (1993) (quoting 45 U.S.C. § 421)). The FRSA was amended in 2007
“to protect employees who engage in certain protected activities, including notifying the railroad
carriers of a work-related injury. Davis v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., No. 5:12-CV-2738, 2014 WL
3499228, *5 (W.D. La. July 14, 2014) (citing Araujo v. N.J. Transit Rail Ops., Inc., 708 F.3d
152, 156-57 (3d Cir. 2013)).
The FRSA states:
(a) A railroad carrier . . ., or an officer or employee of such a railroad
carrier, may not discharge . . . an employee if such [action] is due, in
whole or in part, to the employee’s lawful, good faith act done . . .
(4) to notify the railroad carrier . . . of a work-related personal injury . . .
of an employee.
49 U.S.C § 20109(a)(4). “An employee who alleges discharge . . . in violation of subsection (a) .
. . may seek relief in accordance with the provisions of this section. . . .” Id. at (d). However, an
employee may not seek relief or “protection under both this section and another provision of law
for the same allegedly unlawful act of the railroad carrier.” Id. at (f).
Defendant alleges Plaintiff filed a Title VII anti-retaliation complaint with the EEOC
prior to filing this case. In challenging the Plaintiff’s claim for relief under the FRSA’s election
of remedies provision, Defendant relies heavily on Lee v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Co., No.
1:13cv4-MR-DSC (W.D. N.C. May 20, 2014), an unpublished opinion which the Defendant
attached to its’ motion. In Lee, the plaintiff “chose to pursue a racial discrimination claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1981 before seeking the protections of the FRSA.” Id, at *14. The defendant filed a
motion for summary judgment, arguing Lee’s FRSA claim was barred by the election of
Id., at *6.
The Court granted summary judgment, holding Lee was
“[s]eeking to pursue a belated safety act claim under the FRSA, another provision of law, for the
same allegedly unlawful act of the railroad carrier.” Id. at *26.
Although the facts are similar to the situation here, the Western District of North
Carolina’s analysis was pursuant to a summary judgment standard whereas here, the Court is
limited to the pleadings and the standards set forth under Rule 12. In reviewing a motion to
dismiss, the Court considers whether the complaint contains sufficient “well-pleaded facts” that
establish a “plausible claim for relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S. Ct. 1937.
standard for a motion to dismiss . . . favors the plaintiff in the reading of the complaint.” Smith v.
North Bolivar School Dist., No. 2:07CV51-SA-SAA, 2008 WL 4450295, at *2, 12 (N.D. Miss.
Sept. 29, 2008). Whereas, when considering a motion for summary judgment, the record as a
whole is taken into consideration, and the court determines whether the plaintiff offers “concrete
evidence from which a reasonable jury could return a verdict in his favor . . . .” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 243, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). At this stage
of the litigation, the Court only considers the factual allegations asserted in the Complaint .
According to the Complaint , Plaintiff, under the instructions of another, was injured
while attempting to pull up and unload a piece of compromised rail. Plaintiff reported the injury
Plaintiff contends the subsequent investigation, disciplinary hearing, and
discharge were commenced in retaliation for Plaintiff reporting a work-related injury. The
reporting of a work-related injury is a protected activity under the FRSA. Thus, Plaintiff has
established a plausible claim for relief under the FRSA.
Because the Court is limited to the allegations of the Complaint , and the Complaint
makes no mention of a prior Title VII claim, the Court makes no determination as to whether
Plaintiff is precluded from protection under the FRSA.
Plaintiff’s Complaint  contains
sufficient well-pleaded facts to survive a motion to dismiss. Therefore, the Defendant’s Motion
to Dismiss  is hereby DENIED.
SO ORDERED on this, the 10th day of August, 2015.
/s/ Sharion Aycock_________
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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