Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Torts Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: The plaintiff, Juddson W. King, appeals the district court’s judgment granting summary judgment to the defendants, Illinois Central Railroad Co. and Kenneth Anders, dismissing all of King’s claims arising out of an automobile-train collision at a railroad crossing. The district court concluded that King failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact with respect to his claims that ICR and the train engineer, Anders, were negligent. HOLDING: Affirmed. King argues that he should be excused from the “occupied crossing rule” because the accident happened at night. The Mississippi case law does not support King’s argument. In Owens v. Int’l Paper Co., 528 F.2d 606 (5th Cir. 1976), this court considered the identical argument and held that this statute established a state procedural rule that was not binding on a federal court. In the instant case, King has failed to come forward with evidence that the crossing was difficult to see due to a peculiar environment or hazardous condition. Like the plaintiffs in Owens, King has relied on the fact that the accident occurred at night. Without more, this is not enough to establish an environment of unusual danger. Thus, King has failed to demonstrate that the occupied crossing rule does not apply to his case and the district court correctly rejected King’s claims, based on ICR’s failure to warn. The district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to afford King an inference that the maintenance records or an inspection of the signal would establish that IRC had not properly maintained the signal. Accordingly, King was not entitled to rely on this inference to create an issue of fact on this claim. The court concludes that King has failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether ICR had actual or constructive notice of the alleged defect in the signal. In Missouri Pac. R.R. v. R.R. Com. of Texas,850 F.2d 264 (5th Cir. 1988), the court concluded that the Federal Railroad Administration had “fully considered the safety aspect of requiring cabooses and determined that the issue does not involve safety.” By doing so, the FRA necessarily decided that the use of cabooses was a matter to be dealt with through collective bargaining, rather than federal or state regulation. Because the “FRA has determined it is appropriate for itself to do nothing about cabooses, and affirmatively has left the matter not to the states but to collective bargaining,” the state regulation requiring the use of a caboose was implicitly pre-empted. With regard to reflectors on boxcars, the FRA funded a study in 1981 to examine whether the use of reflective material on railroad cars would reduce the number of accidents at highway and railroad crossings. While the FRA found that the use of reflective materials had merit, the rate of degradation of the reflective materials due to the harsh railroad environment required frequent maintenance or replacement for long-term effectiveness. Because of the problems with degradation, the FRA concluded that requiring such materials was unmanageable. Thus, the FRA decided that rule-making action was unwarranted at that time. Because the FRA examined the issue and decided it should not promulgate regulations for the use of reflective materials on railroad cars, any Mississippi law addressing the issue is implicitly preempted under Missouri Pacific Railroad. The district court correctly concluded that King’s claims based on failure to place reflectors on the boxcar were implicitly preempted under federal law. OPINION: Davis, J.; Davis, Hall and Garza, JJ.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.