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Ward v. Soo Line Railroad Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

May 8, 2017

RONALD WARD, Plaintiff,
v.
SOO LINE RAILROAD COMPANY d/b/a CANADIAN PACIFIC, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, filed by Defendant, Soo Line Railroad Company d/b/a Canadian Pacific (“CP Rail”), on February 6, 2017 (DE #95). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (DE #95) is GRANTED. Count I of the complaint (DE #65-1), and Count III of the Second Amended Complaint (DE #28) are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Additionally, the Clerk is ORDERED to CLOSE this case.

         BACKGROUND

         As set forth in this Court's previous order dated June 21, 2016 (DE #73), this case has a lengthy history. Plaintiff Ronald Ward (“Ward”) alleges he was injured on June 8, 2013, while sitting on a locomotive engineer's seat that collapsed. Ward was then employed by defendant CP Rail, and was assigned to operate a locomotive on a job commonly known as the “Windsor (Canada) to Elkhart (Indiana)” job. Ward's injury allegedly occurred in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

         On January 2, 2014, Ward filed a federal complaint against CP Rail under Cause Number 2:14-CV-1. The Court later granted Soo Line's uncontested motion for judgment on the pleadings, and dismissed Counts I and II of Ward's Second Amended Complaint. (DE #40.) Count III of the Second Amended Complaint remained pending against CP Rail, and is the subject of the instant motion for judgment on the pleadings.

         On June 3, 2015, Ward filed a separate cause of action in Illinois state court, alleging claims against: (1) CP Rail, (2) Nordic, (3) Seats, (4) GE, and (5) Knoedler, Inc. d/b/a Knoedler Manufacturers, Inc. (“Knoedler”). (DE #65-1.) The state court complaint (“Complaint”) was removed to federal court, transferred to this division of the Northern District of Indiana, and opened as Cause Number 2:15-CV-400. Cause Numbers 2:14-CV-1 and 2:15-CV-400 were consolidated, with all filings to be filed only in Cause Number 2:14-CV-1. Count I of the Complaint alleged negligence against Soo Line. Count II alleged strict product liability, manufacturer defect, and design defect of the locomotive seat against Seats. Count III alleged negligence against Seats. Counts VI and VII alleged the same theories of liability, respectively, against Nordic. Count VIII alleged that GE negligently installed the locomotive seat that injured Ward, and failed to report problems with the seat and its installation instructions.

         Seats, Nordic and GE filed a motion to dismiss with this Court (DE #55), arguing that the Locomotive Inspection Act (“LIA”), 49 U.S.C. § 20701, et seq., preempts all of Ward's claims against them. This Court entered an order granting that motion on June 21, 2016 (DE #73), dismissing Counts II, III, VI, VII, and VIII of the complaint (DE #65-1) because they were preempted by the LIA. Count I of the complaint (DE #65-1) remained pending.

         In front of the Court now is CP Rail's motion for judgment on the pleadings for Count I of the complaint (DE #65-1), stating a claim for negligence against CP Rail; and Count III of the Second Amended Complaint (DE #28), stating a very similar claim for negligence against CP Rail. CP Rail's argument in its initial memorandum is in its entirety:

Plaintiff's state common law negligence claims against CP Rail center on a broken locomotive seat. These negligence claims are no different than the claims he asserted against Seats, Inc. and GE. Those claims failed because this Court determined that Plaintiff asserted “state law claims alleging [. . .] negligence, with no mention of any federal standard of care, or any violation thereof.” Plaintiff's negligence claims against CP Rail also contain “no mention of any federal standard of care, or any violation thereof.” His state common law claims against CP Rail are therefore preempted by the LIA.

(DE #96 at 2-3.)

         In response, Plaintiff argues that the common law negligence claims against CP Rail are not preempted by the LIA, FELA, or any other federal statutes. (DE #101 at 3.) He contends the negligence claims are completely different than the barred claims of strict products liability, manufacturer defect, and design defect of the locomotive seat. (DE #101 at 5.)

         CP Rail filed a reply on April 7, 2017 (DE #104). In its reply, CP Rail relies heavily upon Kurns v. R.R. Friction Prods. Corp., 565 U.S. 625, 631 (2012), arguing that the claims of negligent maintenance and inspection of the seat, and failure to warn Plaintiff that the seat was dangerous, are claims that focus on the locomotive seat, and are preempted by the LIA.

         Plaintiff filed a sur-reply on April 10, 2017, arguing that the LIA “does not preempt state law claims for failure to warn an employee of a dangerous, unsafe condition of an engineer's seat.” (DE #105-1 at 1.) Finally, CP Rail filed a response to the sur-reply, citing to Kurns, and arguing that Court found state law failure to warn claims are ...


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