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Johnson v. Railroad Controls L.P.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

December 17, 2014

CHAD JOHNSON and BETTY JOHNSON
v.
RAILROAD CONTROLS L.P., BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY and TNT EQUIPMENT SALES AND RENTALS, INC

MEMORANDUM RULING

PATRICIA MINALDI, District Judge.

Before the court is the defendant Navistar, Inc.'s ("Navistar") Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 161). This motion has been opposed by the plaintiff (rec. Doc. 183) and Navistar filed a Reply (Rec. Doc. 186).

Facts and Procedural History

The plaintiffs filed suit on September 26, 2011, against Railroad Controls L.P. ("RCL"), BNSF Railway Company ("BNSF"), and TNT Equipment Sales and Rentals, Inc. (TNT), seeking to recover for injuries allegedly sustained by Mr. Johnson on September 26, 2010, in the course of his employment with RCL.[1] The plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint (Rec. Doc. 93), which includes as defendants Diversified Metal Fabricators, Inc ("DMF") and Navistar, [2] alleges that the high rail dump truck vehicle in which Mr. Johnson was riding as a passenger on the date of the alleged incident lost braking ability due to the defective nature of the truck and the railgear, resulting in Mr. Johnson's alleged injuries.[3]

The plaintiffs have asserted negligence claims against RCL, Mr. Johnson's employer at the time;[4] claims under the Louisiana Products Liability Act, La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 9:2800.51, et seq., against both DMF, as the manufacturer of the high rail system itself, and Navistar, as the manufacturer of the high rail dump truck that was involved in the accident;[5] a negligence claim against TNT for failing to properly install the braking system; and Mrs. Johnson has sued for loss of consortium.[6]

A prior Memorandum Ruling (Rec. Doc. 88) addressed BNSF and RCL's Rule 12(b)(1) Motions to Dismiss for Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Rec. Doc. 35), as well as a similar Motion (Rec. Doc. 36) filed by TNT. That ruling denied the defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 35 & 36) for a lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that diversity of citizenship subject matter jurisdiction existed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.[7] The same ruling also granted the defendants' Motions to Dismiss the plaintiffs' claims under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. §§ 51-60, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).[8] The court also denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' state law claims for failure to state a claim.[9]

On December 11, 2013, Navistar filed a Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 69) for failure to state a claim, and the plaintiffs' filed a Motion (Rec. Doc. 78) shortly thereafter for the dual purposes of responding to Navistar's Motion as well as requesting a stay of the court's consideration of Navistar's Motion to Dismiss. On January 16, 2014, DMF also filed a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 85), and the plaintiffs again responded with a combined opposition and request for a stay of the court's consideration of DMF's Motion.[10] On February 27, 2014, the plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint (Rec. Doc. 93) was entered into the record. On March 11, 2014, BNSF and RCL filed a Second Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Rec. Doc. 94). Navistar thereafter filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 97) on March 18, 2014. The plaintiffs' responses to these latter two Motions (Rec. Docs. 94 & 97) consisted of another Motion to Stay (Rec. Doc. 107) as to both BNSF and RCL's 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 94) and Navistar's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 97].

On July 7, 2014 this court issued a Memorandum Ruling (Rec. Doc. 118) and Judgment (Rec. Doc. 119) denying Navistar's Motion to Dismiss (rec. Doc. 69) for failure to state a claim for a construction or composition defect and granting Navistar's Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim under the LPLA for design defect. The Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 94) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction filed by RCL and BNSF was also denied. The Motion to Stay (Rec. Doc. 78) was denied. The Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 85) for failure to state a claim filed by DMF was denied. The second Motion to Stay (Rec. Doc. 91) was denied as moot. The second Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 94) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction was granted for claims pursuant to the FELA, including Mrs. Johnson's lack of consortium claims. The Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 97) filed by Chad Johnson was denied.

The motion now before the court seeks summary judgment on the plaintiffs' claims against Navistar based upon the plaintiffs' claims of defective construction and composition of the cab and chassis under the Louisiana Products Liability Act.

Rule 56 Standard

Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted when the movant shows the absence of any genuine dispute as to any material fact and, for that reason, shows that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The movant must demonstrate the absence of any genuine dispute as to any material fact by citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents and affidavits.[11] The movant may demonstrate entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by pointing out the nonmoving party's inability to produce evidence which, when taken as true for the purposes of the motion, would provide a legally sufficient basis upon which a reasonable jury might base a judgment in the nonmoving party's favor.[12]

Once a motion for summary judgment is made and properly supported, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to come forward with evidence which demonstrates the essential elements of his claims.[13] In so doing, the nonmoving party establishes the existence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial. The nonmoving party must show that the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to him, is sufficient to enable a reasonable jury to render a verdict in his favor.[14] A party whose claims are challenged by a motion for summary judgment may not rest on the allegations of the complaint and must articulate specific factual allegations which meet his burden of proof.[15]

If the nonmoving party meets his burden of proof, summary judgment is inappropriate and the claims must be preserved for further proceedings. If, on the other hand, the nonmoving party does not meet his burden, the court must grant summary judgment in recognition of the implausibility of the claims at issue.[16]

All evidence submitted to the court in support of or in opposition to a motion for summary judgment must be of the sort which would be admissible at the trial of the matter.[17] "Metaphysical doubt" as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is insufficient, as are "unsubstantiated assertions" and "conclusory allegations[.]"[18] The court will construe all evidence in the light ...


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