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Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Taylor Truck Line, Inc.

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

April 20, 2017

UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY
v.
TAYLOR TRUCK LINE, INC., ET AL. R & L BUILDERS SUPPLY, INC., ET AL.
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, ET AL.

          KAREN L. HAYES MAG. JUDGE

          RULING

          ROBERT G. JAMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are motions for summary judgment on the issue of negligence [Doc. Nos. 182 & 187] filed by Prewett Enterprises, Inc. (“Prewett”) and Hulcher Services, Inc. (“Hulcher”). Prewett and Hulcher move the Court for summary judgment, arguing that R & L Properties of Oak Grove, LLC (“Properties”) and/or R & L Builders Supply, Inc. (“Builders Supply”) have failed to show that they committed any negligent acts or omissions and that the Court should dismiss all claims of “negligence, improper actions and/or damage to the property.” [Doc. No. 182]. Properties and Builders Supply oppose these motions.

         For the following reasons, the motions for summary judgment on the issue of negligence are GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I.FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On October 5, 2014, Daniel Shackleford (“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.

         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 Railroad Co. (“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 trailer, but did not notify law enforcement or Union Pacific.

         According to Shackleford, approximately two minutes later, before he could extricate the tractor trailer, a Union Pacific train traveling north on the track, which runs parallel to U.S. Highway 165/La. Highway 138, began to approach the crossing. The train activated its flashing lights, bell, and crossing gate. At the time of the accident, Union Pacific engineer, Russell Rowe, was operating the lead locomotive, and Union Pacific conductor, James Kovalyshyn, was in the cab as well. When they 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 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, including land owned by Properties.

         On January 14, 2015, Plaintiff Union Pacific brought the instant suit against Taylor Truck, Taylor Logistics, Shackleford, and College City.[1] On November 4, 2015, a lawsuit filed by Properties and Builders Supply was consolidated with this lawsuit.

         Properties owns the land located along Church Street in Mer Rouge (“the Church Street Land”) where train cars and other debris came to rest after the collision and where reclamation and clean up took place, allegedly without permission of Properties. Builders Supply operates a building supply and equipment facility on Andrews Lane in Mer Rouge.

         Approximately one year before the accident, Properties purchased the Church Street Land for the purpose of expanding Builders Supply's business operations. Prior to and at the time of the accident, Builders Supply was storing used cross ties on the Church Street Land.

         On February 27, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in part motions for summary judgment filed by Prewett, Hulcher, and the Taylor Entities. [Doc. No. 288]. The Court ruled that Builders Supply did not have a lease for the affected land, and, thus, it could not assert any claims for damages to the Church Street Land. However, the Court found that there was a genuine issue of material fact for trial on the alleged damage to Builders Supply's cross ties stored on the Church Street Land.

         Properties and Builders Supply have asserted negligence claims against Prewett and Hulcher for alleged damage they caused during the clean up and reclamation activities. In the instant motions, Prewett and Hulcher move the Court to find that Properties and Builders Supply have failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact for trial that they committed any act or omission of negligence. Properties and Builders Supply oppose the motions. [Doc. Nos. 225 & 232]. Prewett and ...


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