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Hughs v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division

April 28, 2017

RHONDA HUGHS, RANDY GROVES, T.S.G., MINOR, BY NEXT FRIEND RHONDA HUGHS; Plaintiffs,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER ON REMAINING SUMMARY JUDGMENT HORN ARGUMENTS

          ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE.

         Now pending before the Court are two remaining arguments raised in Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment - Preemption.[1] (Doc. 36.) After careful review, the Court further GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment - Preemption.

         I. Procedural Background

         Defendant moved for partial summary judgment arguing that a number of claims asserted by Plaintiffs are preempted by federal law or otherwise fail as a matter of law. (Doc. 36.) As relevant here, Defendant moved for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims that (1) Defendant's horn did not meet the decibel level requirement set forth in 49 C.F.R. § 229.129 at the time of the collision; and (2) that Defendant failed to maintain the horn in compliance with the Locomotive Inspection Act (“LIA”). (Doc. 37.) Plaintiffs opposed the motion. (Doc. 64.) On April 14, 2017, the Court ruled on the majority of Defendant's preemption arguments, but requested additional authority and deferred ruling on arguments related to the decibel level requirements of 49 C.F.R. § 229.129 and locomotive maintenance claims. (Doc. 108.)

         In its Order, the Court asked the parties to supplement their initial briefing to address the following issues: (1) any distinction between these claims or whether both arguments are solely based on negligent maintenance; (2) whether these claims are preempted by the Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”), the LIA, or both; and (3) whether state law claims asserting a breach of a federal standard of care are preempted by the LIA. (Id.) In response, the parties filed supplemental briefing on the issues (docs. 111 and 112) and orally argued their positions to the Court (doc. 114).

         II. Discussion

         Basic principles applicable to the remaining claims were addressed in the Court's initial Order (doc. 108). Therefore, the Court begins by setting forth the relevant portions of that Order:

The purpose of the FRSA is to promote “safety in every area of railroad operations and reduce railroad-related accidents and incidents.” See 49 U.S.C. § 20101. The FRSA has an express preemption and savings provision which states in relevant part:
(a) 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.
(2) 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), . . . 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-
(A) is necessary to eliminate or reduce an essentially local safety or security hazard;
(B) is not incompatible with a law, regulation, or order of the United ...

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