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Hathorn v. Kansas City Southern Railway Company, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

August 1, 2018




         Robert Hathorn Jr. originally filed his Complaint [2] in the Circuit Court of Winston County, Mississippi on November 28, 2017. Defendant Kansas City Southern Railway Company, Inc. removed the case to this Court on December 22, 2017. The Plaintiff's Complaint asserts a number of claims. Now before the Court is Defendant Stuart Griffin's Motion for Summary Judgment [9] on some of the Plaintiff's claims.[1] Kansas City Southern joined in the pending motion. See Joinder [11, 12]. Specifically, these Defendants now seek dismissal of the Plaintiff's claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process, and malicious prosecution.

         Preliminary Matters - Filing Deadlines

         The Plaintiff failed to respond to the pending Motion for Summary Judgment within the deadlines imposed by the Local Rules. See L. U. Civ R. 7(b). Instead, the Plaintiff filed a Response [13] and Brief [14] outside the deadlines, without leave from the Court. Even after the Defendants raised the issue of the late filing in their summary judgment briefing, the Plaintiff failed to offer any explanation for the late filing, or to request any form of relief from the deadlines. The Court notes that this is not the first time Plaintiff's counsel has failed to meet dispositive motion deadlines and failed to provide any excuse for doing so. These repeated failures by Plaintiff's counsel place the Court in a difficult position. On one hand the Court must enforce its own rules, and the deadlines imposed by the rules are not optional. See Blackard v. City of Southaven, No. 2:11-CV-6-NBB, 2012 WL 827192, at *3 (N.D. Miss. Mar. 9, 2012). On the other hand, Rule 56 makes it clear that there is “no summary judgment by default” and even a complete lack of a response by the Plaintiff does not alter the Court's summary judgment inquiry. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Calais v. Theriot, 589 Fed.Appx. 310, 311 (5th Cir. 2015); Hibernia Nat'l Bank v. Administracion Cent. Sociedad Anonima, 776 F.2d 1277, 1279 (5th Cir. 1985).

         Given the complete lack of explanation for the late filing, the Court strikes the Plaintiff's response and brief. The Court also puts Plaintiff's counsel on notice that further violations of the Local Rules will result in sanctions. See L. U. Civ R. Preamble. The Court has nevertheless conducted an independent review of the record and will analyze all of the relevant evidence and argument under the applicable standard of review.

         Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs summary judgment. Summary judgment is warranted when the evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The rule “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

         The moving party “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The nonmoving party must then “go beyond the pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citation omitted). In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the non-movant, “but only when . . . both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When such contradictory facts exist, the Court may “not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000).

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On September 25, 2015 the Plaintiff was injured while attempting to cross the rail line in Louisville, Mississippi. The Plaintiff's foot was caught in the coupling mechanism between two railcars. The crossing and the train were owned by Defendant Kansas City Southern. Defendant Griffin is a Claim Agent for Kansas City Southern and took the Plaintiff's recorded statement some time after the incident. Defendant Wright was the train's conductor.

         Kansas City Southern initiated a criminal trespass case against the Plaintiff in the Louisville Municipal Court on October 5, 2015. The Plaintiff was arrested and released on bond on March 11, 2016, and his case was set for trial on May 10, 2016. The Plaintiff failed to appear for his trial, but the Municipal Court was able to contact him by telephone. The Municipal Court records indicate that “Defendant entered a plea of guilty” to Willful Trespassing Miss. Code Ann. § 97-17-87 and,

On May 10, 2016, the Defendant did not appear in Court. I spoke with him by phone May 12, 2016 to make sure he was not in jail or hospital and he advised he had changed his mind to [sic] and wanted cash bond to be used as payment of fine.

         On August 15, 2017, at the Plaintiff's request, the Louisville Municipal Court entered an agreed order expunging the Plaintiff's criminal record relevant to this incident. The Court notes that the Plaintiff was nineteen years old at the time of the incident, and reached the age of twenty-one, the legal age of majority in Mississippi, on February 2, 2016. See Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-59.

         Discussion ...

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