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Union Pacific Railroad Co v. Taylor Truck Line Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

February 27, 2017





         Pending before the Court are motions for summary judgment filed by Prewett Enterprises, Inc. (“Prewett”) [Doc. No. 125], Union Pacific Railroad Co. (“Union Pacific”) [Doc. No. 132], Hulcher Services, Inc. (“Hulcher”) [Doc. No. 141], and jointly by College City Leasing, LLC (“College City”), Daniel Shackleford (“Shackleford”), Taylor Consolidated, Inc. (“Taylor Consolidated”), Taylor Logistics, Inc. (“Taylor Logistics”), and Taylor Truck Line, Inc. (“Taylor Truck”) [Doc. No. 160]. R & L Builders Supply, Inc. (“Builders Supply”) and R & L Properties of Oak Grove, LLC (“Properties”) have asserted claims against these parties for damage to land from a train derailment and the derailment clean-up. In their motions, the parties do not contest Properties' ownership interest in the Land, but move to dismiss Builders Supply's claims against them, arguing that Builders Supply has no evidence of its interest in the land.[1]Additionally, the moving parties argue that Builders Supply has failed to establish that it suffered a loss from cross ties located on the land. Builders Supply has opposed the motions. [Doc. Nos. 131, 139, 140 & 163]. Some of the moving parties have filed replies in support of their motions. [Doc. Nos. 147 & 167].

         For the following reasons, the motions for summary judgment are GRANTED, and Builders Supply's claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.


         On October 5, 2014, Shackleford was operating a 2013 Kenworth tractor with trailer and dolly (hereinafter “tractor trailer”) loaded with a Terex RT-780 crane. The tractor trailer was owned by College City, but leased to Taylor Truck.[2]

         At approximately 1:00 p.m., Shackleford was driving the tractor trailer south on U.S. Highway 165 in Mer Rouge, Louisiana. At the intersection of 165 and U.S. Highway 425/La. Highway 2, Shackleford stopped at the stop sign and then turned left onto U.S. Highway 425/La. Highway 2. He then proceeded to a highway/railway grade crossing over a Union Pacific main line railroad track. The crossing is protected by railroad pavement markings, crossbuck signs, flashing lights, gates, and bells.

         As Shackleford attempted to drive over the crossing, the tractor trailer became lodged, straddling the tracks. He exited the tractor to attempt to extricate the lowboy trailer, but did not notify law enforcement or Union Pacific.

         While Shackleford's tractor trailer was lodged on the tracks and before he could extricate it, a Union Pacific train traveling north on the track, which runs parallel to U.S. Highway 165/La. Highway 138, began to approach to crossing. The train activated its flashing lights, bell, and crossing gate. When the Union Pacific train crew saw the tractor trailer at the crossing, crew members applied the emergency brakes in an effort to avoid the collision. The crew members were unsuccessful, and the train collided with the lowboy trailer and attached crane. As a result of the collision, approximately 17 railroad cars and 2 locomotives left the railroad tracks, cargo spilled, and a tank car leaked Argon onto surrounding property.

         Properties owns the land located along Church Street in Mer Rouge[3] (“the Land”) where at least some of the cars and other debris came to rest after the collision and where reclamation and clean up took place without permission of Properties. The members of Properties, a limited liability company organized under Louisiana law, are Linda and Randle McLarrin. The McLarrins are also officers of Builders Supply, a Louisiana corporation which operates a building supply and equipment facility on Andrews Lane in Mer Rouge.

         Properties and Builders Supply have an existing written lease, entered into on January 5, 2012, which contains a legal description of the Andrews Lane property.[4] [Doc. No. 125-9]. Approximately one year before the accident, Properties purchased the Land for the purpose of expanding Builders Supply's business operations. The written lease was not amended to include the Land, nor was another written lease executed prior to the Randle McLarrin testified that he intended to execute a lease between the two entities (as President of both entities), but no written lease covering the Land was executed prior to the accident.

         Prior to the accident, Builders Supply sold topsoil from the Land and also stored used cross ties there. Trusses and pilings for the expansion had been procured, and the site had been staked out. However, no buildings had been erected, and Builders Supply's operations had not otherwise been expanded to the Land.

         On January 14, 2015, Plaintiff Union Pacific brought suit against Taylor Truck, Taylor Logistics, Shackleford, and College City.[5]

         On October 1, 2015, Builders Supply and Properties brought suit against Union Pacific, Taylor Truck, Taylor Logistics, College City, Shackleford, and B & P Enterprises, Inc. In their Complaint, Properties states that it was the owner of “certain property located in Mer Rouge, LA, and leased to [Builders Supply]. [Doc. No. 1, ¶ XXVIII (emphasis added)]. As a result of Properties' ownership and Builders Supply's alleged lease of the Land, they jointly seek recovery of damages to the Land, damages to trees on the Land, damages to buildings on the Land, damages to cross ties and other building materials on the Land, loss of lumbar products because of the lack of anticipated storage space on the Land, loss of revenues from the anticipated expansion of the business operations, added costs to remediate hazardous chemicals, loss of value of the Land, and loss of the ability to sell top soil from the Land.

         On November 4, 2015, the Builders Supply and Properties suit was consolidated with the Union Pacific suit ...

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