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Welch v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

August 4, 2016

SCOTT WELCH, Plaintiff,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.

          Scott Welch, Plaintiff, represented by Chad C. Beaver, Beaver Law Firm, LLC.

          Union Pacific Railroad Company, Defendant, represented by Christopher C. Confer, Yeretsky & Maher & Craig M. Leff, Yeretsky & Maher.

          ORDER AND OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          ORTRIE D. SMITH, Senior District Judge.

         Pending is Defendant Union Pacific Railroad Company's ("Union Pacific") Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Doc. #5. Union Pacific's motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In April 2014, Plaintiff Scott Welch filed a complaint with the Department of Labor's ("DOL") Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") alleging Union Pacific violated the Federal Railway Safety Act ("FRSA"). In October 2014, the DOL determined there was "no reasonable cause" to believe Union Pacific violated the FRSA. Doc. #6-4, at 1. The DOL informed Welch he had thirty days to file objections and request a hearing before an administrative law judge. Id. at 2. The DOL also stated "[i]f no objections are filed, these Findings will become final and not subject to court review." Id. Welch did not object to the determination or request a hearing.

         In April 2016, Welch filed his Petition in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, alleging wrongful termination for reporting violations of laws, statutes, regulations, or rules; refusing to perform an illegal act or an act contrary to the mandate of public policy; providing truthful testimony in a quasi-judicial proceeding about safety violations unfavorable to his employer; and/or otherwise acting in manner public policy would encourage. Doc. #1-1, at 8-9. Union Pacific removed the matter to this Court.

         Union Pacific argues Welch's Petition should be dismissed for failure to state a claim because the claims are barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel, Welch has already elected his remedies under the FRSA by filing a complaint with the DOL and cannot seek state law relief for the same allegations, and Missouri law does not recognize a common-law retaliation action for violation of public policy because the FRSA provides an adequate statutory remedy.

         II. STANDARD

         The liberal pleading standard created by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires Aa short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.@ Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court Amust accept as true all of the complaint's factual allegations and view them in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff[]." Stodghill v. Wellston Sch. Dist., 512 F.3d 472, 476 (8th Cir. 2008).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. 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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

In keeping with these principles a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.

Id. at 679. A claim is facially plausible if it allows the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged. SeeHorras v. Am. Capital Strategies, Ltd.,729 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2013); Braden v. Wal-Mart ...


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