United States District Court, W.D. Missouri.
RHONDA HUGHS, NEXT FRIEND TO TSG; RANDY GROVES, T.S.G., MINOR, BY NEXT FRIEND RHONDA HUGHS; Plaintiffs,
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.
ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment. (Doc. 38.) After careful review,
Defendant's motion (doc. 38) is GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part.
action for wrongful death arises from an automobile/train
collision that occurred at a public railroad grade crossing
in Trenton, Missouri. The accident occurred when a car driven
by Nancy Groves (“Decedent”) collided with a
train owned by Defendant. The resulting collision killed Ms.
Groves and her two passengers. Plaintiffs allege a number of
ways in which Defendant was negligent. Defendant moves for
summary judgment on a number of Plaintiffs' claims.
Summary Judgment Standard
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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party who moves for summary judgment
bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of
material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 256 (1986). An issue of fact is only genuine if it
has a real basis in the record, and is material if it
“might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law.” Id. at 248. When considering a
motion for summary judgment, a court must scrutinize the
evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party,
and the nonmoving party “must be given the benefit of
all reasonable inferences.” Mirax Chem. Prods.
Corp. v. First Interstate Commercial Corp., 950 F.2d
566, 569 (8th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted).
resisting summary judgment, the nonmoving party may not rest
on the allegations in its pleadings, but must, by affidavit
and other evidence, set forth specific facts showing that a
genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c);
see also Thomas v. Corwin, 483 F.3d 516, 527 (8th
Cir. 2007) (“mere allegations, unsupported by specific
facts or evidence beyond the nonmoving party's own
conclusions, are insufficient to withstand a motion for
summary judgment”). In so doing, the nonmoving party
“cannot create sham issues of fact in an effort to
defeat summary judgment.” RSBI Aerospace, Inc. v.
Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 49 F.3d 399, 402 (8th Cir. 1995)
(citation omitted). “Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of
summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon
motion, against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
moves for summary judgment on the following grounds: (A)
Plaintiffs' claims that Defendant was negligent in
failing to close and to maintain the crossing fail as a
matter of law; (B) Plaintiffs' negligent training claims
fail as a matter of law; (C) Plaintiffs' claims of
negligent management fail to state a claim and are factually
unsupported; (D) Plaintiffs' claims that the crew failed
to keep a proper lookout and to slacken speed fail as a
matter of law; (E) Plaintiffs' claim that the crossing is
ultra-hazardous fails for lack of evidence to support it; (F)
Plaintiffs' negligence per se claims fail as a matter of
law; (G) Plaintiffs' claims for damages for pre-death
pain and suffering are unsupported by any evidence; and (H)
Plaintiffs can present no evidence of conduct by Defendant to
support a claim for punitive damages.
Negligent in Failing to Close the Crossing (doc. 1 at ¶
19(p)) and Maintenance of the Crossing (id. at
¶¶ 19(a), (b), (c), (m))
moves for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claim that
Defendant was negligent in failing to close the crossing
until all dangerous conditions were remedied and on
Plaintiffs' claims that Defendant was negligent for
failing to maintain that crossing.
Defendant argues that it had no duty to close the crossing
because Missouri's Highways and Transportation Commission
(“MHTC”) had the exclusive power to close
railroad crossings as provided in Missouri Revised Statute
§ 389.610. Next, Defendant argues it had no duty to
maintain the approaches and crossing surfaces because under
the regulations implemented by MHTC, the roadway authority
(and not the railroad) is responsible for the approaches,
including the grade, profile, and composition of the
approaches. Finally, with respect to signage, Defendant
asserts, without citation to law or fact, that Plaintiffs
cannot present facts showing the inadequacy of signage or
causation related to such inadequate signage.
counter by arguing that the “exclusive power”
provision in section 389.610 has been interpreted by the
Missouri Supreme Court to supplement, rather than repeal any
existing law placing duties on the railroad. Plaintiffs cite
Alcorn v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, 50 S.W.3d
226, 235 (Mo. 2001) (overruled on other grounds) which
Nothing in the statute negates the railroad's common law
duty to use reasonable care in providing adequate warning of
railroad crossings. In fact, section 389.610.2 sets forth the
duty by requiring the railroad to “construct and
maintain good and sufficient crossings.” While the
statute provides a regulatory mechanism for ordering the
upgrading of crossings, it does not supercede the
railroad's common law duty.
Plaintiffs contend that Missouri has a long-standing common
law duty requiring a railroad to construct and maintain its
crossing and approaches in a reasonable manner. To support
that contention, Plaintiffs cite Hartmann v. St.
Louis-S.F. Ry. Co., which states, “[i]t is well
settled that when a railroad crosses a public road, there is
a duty upon the railroad company, not only to construct the
crossing in accordance with the provisions of Section 389.610
. . ., but also to maintain it in a condition that makes it
reasonably safe for travel.” 280 S.W.2d 442, 446 (Mo.
on the cases cited by Plaintiffs, the Court finds that
Defendant had a duty to use reasonable care in providing
adequate warning of the crossing and that it had a duty to
maintain that crossing. These duties are not displaced by
Section 389.610. Therefore, Defendant's arguments that it
had no such duties with respect to Plaintiffs' claims for
failure to maintain the crossing fail. Moreover, “the
question of whether an injury in fact was caused by
negligence is for the jury.” Alcorn, 50 S.W.3d
at 239. The Court simply determines “whether there are