SHAWN T. EZELL, Plaintiff - Appellant
KANSAS CITY SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Mississippi
PRADO, HIGGINSON, and COSTA, Circuit Judges.
STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, Circuit Judge:
Shawn Ezell drove his car into a stationary train that was
blocking a traffic crossing. Ezell sued the train's
operator, Defendant-Appellee Kansas City Southern Railway
(KCSR), asserting various Mississippi common law negligence
claims based on his allegations that the train blocked the
crossing for an impermissible amount of time and the
train's crew failed to adequately warn approaching
drivers of the obstructed crossing. KCSR filed a motion for
summary judgment, which the district court granted. We
early morning hours of July 12, 2011, a train operated by
KCSR temporarily stopped in West Point, Mississippi, so the
crew could perform a switching operation. The operation required the train to fully
occupy and block three West Point traffic crossings.
Ezell's expert estimates that the train was stopped in
West Point for approximately 24 minutes.
the crew was performing its switching operation, Ezell
approached one of the blocked crossings in his car. He passed
a reflectorized advanced warning sign, a reflectorized
railroad crossing sign, and a yield sign. Although Ezell
testified at his deposition that he does not recall seeing
the signs on the night of the accident, he acknowledged that
knew they were there because he had passed through the
crossing many times and was familiar with it. Ezell also
testified that the night was dark and "kind of . . .
foggy." He described the road as having "a little
dip" and then an incline leading to the tracks, which
were elevated in comparison to the approaching road. Because
of the incline in the road and the position of the black
train car on the track, Ezell says his headlights shone under
the train as he approached and that he could see beneath the
stationary train car to the road on the other side.
to Ezell, he did not see the train blocking his path until it
was too late to stop. He crashed into its side, his car
lodging beneath the train car he struck. Ezell was airlifted
to a medical center for treatment and rehabilitation. He
suffered horrific injuries and remained hospitalized for two
months followed by a long rehabilitation process. As a result
of the accident, Ezell is an "incomplete quadriplegic,
" meaning he suffers from severe paralysis throughout
his body, but is not completely paralyzed and is able to walk
with a walker, though not for long periods of time.
filed a lawsuit in Mississippi state court against KCSR,
seeking damages based on various Mississippi common law
negligence theories. Ezell alleges that the KCSR train crew
"was careless, negligent and partially at fault"
because the crew: (1) blocked the crossing for longer than
permitted by Mississippi law; (2) blocked the crossing for
longer than permitted by KCSR's internal operating rules;
and (3) failed to adequately warn approaching drivers of the
removed the case to federal court based on federal question
jurisdiction, arguing that Ezell's two blocking claims
were completely preempted by the federal ICC Termination Act
(ICCTA). KCSR then moved for summary
judgment on all of Ezell's claims. In addition to urging
that Ezell's two blocking claims are preempted, KCSR
argued that Ezell's failure to warn claim is barred by
Mississippi's Occupied Crossing Rule. The district court
granted KCSR's motion, and Ezell timely appealed.
review a district court's grant of summary judgment de
novo, applying the same legal standards as the district
court. Robinson v. Orient Marine Co., 505 F.3d 364,
365 (5th Cir. 2007). Summary judgment is only appropriate
"if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Any reasonable
inferences are to be drawn in favor of the non-moving party.
Robinson, 505 F.3d at 366.
a state statute or common law cause of action is preempted by
federal law is a question of law we review de
novo." Friberg, 267 F.3d at 442;
accord Elam, 635 F.3d at 802; Franks, 593
F.3d at 407. "The party asserting federal preemption has
the burden of persuasion." Elam, 635 F.3d at
802 (citing AT&T ...