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State v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 10, 2017

State of Indiana, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Norfolk Southern Railway Company, Appellee-Plaintiff

         Appeal from the Allen Superior Court, The Honorable Wendy Davis, Judge;, The Honorable David M. Zent, Magistrate. Trial Court Cause No. 02D05-1503-IF-2039, 02D06-1505-IF-2988, 02D05-1505-IF-3070, 02D06-1505-IF-3071, 02D04-1505-IF-3082, 02D04-1505-IF-3084, 02D06-1505-IF-3183, 02D06-1505-IF-3246, 02D05-1505-IF-3248, 02D04-1505-IF-3251, 02D04-1505-IF-3255, 02D06-1505-IF-3262, 02D04-1505-IF-3263, 02D05-1505-IF-3264, 02D05-1505-IF-3312, 02D04-1505-IF-3362, 02D06-1505-IF-3363, 02D06-1506-IF-6379, 02D04-1506-IF-6383, 02D04-1508-IF-9742, 02D06-1508-IF-9744, 02D06-1511-IF-13718, 02D04-1512-IF-15577

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Larry D. Allen Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE John C. Duffey Heather L. Emenhiser Stuart & Branigin LLP Lafayette, Indiana.

          ATTORNEYS FOR AMICUS CURIAE, ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN RAILROADS Harold Abrahamson Jonathan Halm Abrahamson, Reed, & Bilse Hammond, Indiana.

          MAY, JUDGE.

         [¶1] The State of Indiana ("State") appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Norfolk Southern Railway Company ("Norfolk").[1] The State argues the trial court erred as a matter of law when it determined Indiana's Blocked Crossing Statute, Indiana Code section 8-6-7.5-1 ("Indiana Blocked Crossing Statute"), is preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act ("ICCTA") and the Federal Railroad Safety Act ("FRSA"). We reverse and remand.[2]

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] The facts here are not disputed. In 2015, the State issued twenty-three citations to Norfolk for violations of Indiana's blocked-crossing statute, Indiana Code section 8-6-7.5-1 ("Indiana's Blocked Crossing Statute"). Norfolk does not dispute "that the trains in these causes blocked the crossings for more than ten minutes on each occasion." (App. Vol. II at 7.) Nevertheless, Norfolk challenged the citations.

         [¶3] On September 21, 2015, Norfolk filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing Indiana's Blocked-Crossing Statute is preempted by the ICCTA and the FRSA. The State responded, and the trial court held a hearing on the matter on January 12, 2016. On June 8, 2016, the trial court granted Norfolk's motion for summary judgment after concluding "I.C. 8-6-7.5-1 is preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act ("ICCTA"), 49 U.S.C. § 10101, et seq., and the Federal Railroad Safety Act ("FRSA"), 49 U.S.C. § 20101, et seq." (Id. at 9.)

         [¶4] In its order granting summary judgment in favor of Norfolk, the trial court outlined some of the relevant facts which led to the citations:

1. Trains block grade crossings in excess of ten minutes for various reasons in the performance of Norfolk Southerns' [sic] railroad operations in New Haven.
2. For example, Norfolk Southern performs switching operations in connection with its service to various industries. Performing switching maneuvers typically at Rose Avenue and Hartzell Road, which are directly east of the East Wayne Yard. Safe coupling of cars during switching operations must be completed at slow speeds. Coupling cars at anything but a slow speed may cause cars to derail. Switching operations typically take longer than ten minutes to perform. Norfolk Southern could not perform these switching operations without, at times, blocking grade crossing [sic] in excess of ten minutes.
3. Further, inbound trains may be held while waiting for entry into the East Wayne Yard and to allow other train traffic to pass. This may result in grade crossing blockages in excess of ten minutes. Trains may also stop as the result of a mechanical defect with the train, resulting in grade crossing blockages in excess of the [sic] minutes.
4. Doyle Road is the first siding track east of the East Wayne Yard. Trains park on the siding to allow other train traffic to pass on the mainline. This may result in grade crossing blockages on Doyle Road in excess of ten minutes.
5. To attempt to limit the time a train may obstruct a grade crossing to ten minutes Norfolk Southern would be required to run trains at a faster speed so as to clear crossings more quickly, to run shorter (and, therefore, more numerous) trains so they can be stopped without obstructing grade crossings, or to break or "cut" the train to open the grade crossing for motor vehicle traffic.
6. Norfolk Southern can only open grade crossings for motor vehicle traffic (during the time the train is stopped) by breaking or "cutting" the train into two or more segments (train segments), depending on the length of the train. Cutting a train requires a temporary interruption of the train's braking system.
7. The crew must reassemble these train segments and perform an airbrake safety test required by federal regulations before the train can be moved - an airbrake test that can only be performed once the train is completely reassembled. Reassembling the train and performing the federally mandated airbrake test is a procedure that requires more than ten minutes to complete.
8. Cutting and re-coupling train segments requires train crew members to dismount from the locomotive engine, walk to where the cut is to be made, and operate equipment necessary to perform the coupling or un-coupling operation. Crew members also have to set a sufficient number of handbrakes on that part of the train uncoupled from the engine(s). To complete the coupling process, employees must go between the ends of the cars and re-attach the air hoses that are part of [the] train's braking system.
9. Requiring employees to cut and reassemble train segments each time a train may block a grade crossing for more than ten minutes would also delay Norfolk Southern's train operations/ traffic because of the time involved in performing these maneuvers.

(Id. at 7-8.)

         Discussion and Decision

         Summary Judgment Standard of Review

         [¶5] We review decisions on summary judgment de novo and apply the same standard applied by the trial court. AM Gen. LLC v. Armour, 46 N.E.3d 436, 439 (Ind. 2015). The movant must show the designated evidence raises no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.

         [¶6] Here, the trial court made findings and conclusions in support of its entry of summary judgment. We are not bound by such findings and conclusions, but they aid our review by providing reasons for the decision. Allen Gray Ltd. P'ship IV v. Mumford, 44 N.E.3d 1255, 1256 (Ind.Ct.App. ...


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