United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
DEBORAH S. GROH, et al., Plaintiffs,
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
D. SMITH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SENIOR JUDGE
is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Doc. #12. For the
following reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is
filed a Petition in the Circuit Court of Jackson County on
July 20, 2017. Doc. #1-2. Plaintiffs are landowners who own
fee title in land adjacent to a railroad right-of-way that
runs between Milepost 270.6 North of Greenwood, Missouri, and
Milepost 288.3 in Jackson County, Missouri. Defendant Union
Pacific Railroad Company (“Union Pacific”)
acquired an easement for railroad purposes over and through
landowners' property. The rail line at issue is out of
service, and has no customers.
December 2015, Defendant Jackson County filed a Verified
Notice of Exemption with the Surface and Transportation Board
(“STB”) to permit Jackson County to acquire from
Union Pacific and operate, as Defendant Rock Island Corridor
Authority (“RICA”), the rail line described
above. The STB granted the exemption, stating
Jackson County, doing business as RICA, will be the operator
on the line. Jackson County, Mo. - Acquisition &
Operation Exemption - Union Pac. R.R. Co., Fin. Dkt. No.
35982, 2015 WL 9672626, at * 1 n.1 (S.T.B. Jan. 8, 2016). The
exemption was served and published in the Federal Register,
and scheduled to become effective on January 22, 2016.
Jackson County, Mo. - Acquisition & Operation
Exemption - Union Pac. R.R. Co., Fin. Dkt. No. 35982,
2016 WL 454035, at * 1 (S.T.B. Feb. 4, 2016).
February 2016, the STB denied a motion to stay the effective
date of the exemption filed by an entity not a party to this
matter. Id. Accordingly, the exemption was effective
immediately. The STB stated Jackson County planned to use the
rail line as a recreational trail and potentially for
commuter rail service. Id. at * 1-2. In April 2016,
Union Pacific, through a quit claim deed, transferred to
Jackson County the 17.7 miles of rail line between Milepost
270.6 North of Greenwood, Missouri, and Milepost 288.3 in
allege Defendants “improperly and illegally invaded and
clouded Plaintiffs' fee ownership in their land
associated with the right-of-way.” Plaintiffs claim
Union Pacific abandoned the easement, and as a result,
Plaintiffs maintain they regained the right to use and
possess their property free of any easement. Plaintiffs also
allege Union Pacific was not authorized to transfer any
interest to Jackson County. They further allege
“Defendants failed to make a formal request to the
Surface and Transportation Board (“STB”) for a
Notice of Interim Trail Use (“NITU”) which
authorizes the interim trail use and railbanks the railroad
right-of-way under 16 U.S.C. [§] 1247(d) (“Trails
Act”).” Plaintiffs allege claims of inverse
condemnation, trespass, and quiet title against Union
Pacific, Jackson County, and RICA, and seek monetary damages.
September 6, 2017, Union Pacific, with Jackson County's
and RICA's consent, removed the matter to this Court.
Docs. #1, 3. Union Pacific alleges this Court has original
jurisdiction over the claims alleged in this matter under 28
U.S.C. § 1331. It maintains Plaintiffs' claims
necessarily and explicitly turn on substantial and disputed
issues of federal laws - specifically, federal laws governing
abandonment of a railroad right-of-way under the Trails Act,
and the STB's jurisdiction over operation of a railroad
right-of-way under the Interstate Commerce Commission
Termination Act of 1995 (“ICCTA”). After
obtaining an extension of time to respond to Plaintiffs'
Petition, Union Pacific filed a motion to dismiss. Doc. #12.
Union Pacific argues Plaintiff's claims are preempted,
and Plaintiffs' challenge to Union Pacific's transfer
of the rail line for recreational purposes fails because
Plaintiffs failed to challenge the STB's decision
granting an exemption. Jackson County and RICA join Union
Pacific's motion. Doc. #14. Plaintiffs filed their
opposition to the motion. Doc. #15. Union Pacific filed its
reply, in which Jackson County and RICA joined. Docs. #22-23.
The motion to dismiss is now ripe for consideration.
move to dismiss this matter pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and/or
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under Rule
12(b)(1), a court “must distinguish between a
‘facial attack' and a ‘factual attack' on
jurisdiction.” Carlsen v. GameStop, Inc., 833
F.3d 903, 908 (8th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). When faced
with a facial attack, as is the case here, “the court
restricts itself to the face of the pleadings, and the
non-moving party receives the same protections as it would
defending against a motion brought under Rule
12(b)(6).” Id. (citations omitted).
12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint.
The liberal pleading standard created by the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure requires “a 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 “must 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 ...