United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
Bennie Walton attempted to climb between the cars of a
stopped train when the it suddenly began moving. Walton fell
and lost part of his right leg as a result. Walton sued the
owner of the train, Defendant Kansans City Southern Railway
Company ("KCSR"). KCSR now moves for summary
judgment . For the reasons set forth below, the Court
finds that the motion should be granted.
March 21, 2016, Walton traveled from his house along a
pedestrian pass to go to a nearby convenience store. Bennie
Walton Depo. [67-1] at 74-75. This path had been used to
cross the tracks for many years. See Eric Lewis
Depo. [67-3] at 16.
arrived at where the path crossed the tracks and found a KCSR
train sitting there. The train crew was in the process of
moving cars between the main track and a nearby sidetrack.
See Foster Peterson Aff. [63-1] at 1-2. There is a
dispute about how long the train remained stationary on the
tracks. KCSR maintains the crew stopped for only 19 seconds
to align switches on the track. Id. at 2. Walton,
however, stated that the train was there for at least an
hour, Walton Depo. at 208, and was stationary long enough for
him to climb between the rail cars, go to the store, and
begin walking back home. Id. at 104-108.
again tried to climb between the cars. As he was climbing
over, the train began moving. Id. at 114-17. Walton
lost his balance and fell over. The train ran over his leg,
amputating it. Id. at 115.
maintains that the crew did not sound the train's horn
before it began moving. The crew says that they did. Peterson
Aff. at 3. While at least one member of the crew was aware
that the pedestrian path crossed over the tracks, it is
undisputed that no member of the crew knew that Walton was
passing between the rail cars when they began moving the
train. Stephen Cox Depo. [63-3] at 15; Tony Dantzler Depo.
[63-6] at 8; Chris McGlothin Depo. [63-7] at 13-15.
brought this action alleging that KCSR was negligent both in
leaving the train on the tracks for too long and for moving
the train without warning. KCSR moves for summary judgment.
judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (quoting
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 sufficient
showing 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." Id. at 322, 106
party moving for summary judgment bears the initial
responsibility of informing the Court of the basis for its
motion and identifying those portions of the record it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of
material fact. See Id. "An issue of fact is
material only if 'its resolution could affect the outcome
of the action.'" Manning v. Chevron Chem. Co.,
LLC, 332 F.3d 874, 877 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting
Wyatt v. Hunt Plywood Co., 297 F.3d 405, 408 (5th
burden then shifts to the nonmovant to "go beyond the
pleadings and by ... affidavits, or by the depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct.
2548 (internal quotation marks omitted.); Littlefleld v.
Forney Indep. Sch Dist., 268 F.3d 275, 282 (5th Cir.
2001); Willis v. Roche Biomedical Labs., Inc., 61
F.3d 313, 315 (5th Cir. 1995). The Court "resolve[s]
factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but
only where there is an actual controversy, that is, when both
parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts."
Antoine v. First Student, Inc., 713 F.3d 824, 830
(5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co.,
Inc., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005)). "[T]he
nonmoving party 'cannot defeat summary judgment with
conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a
scintilla of evidence.'" Hathaway v.
Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Turner v. Baylor Richardson Medical Center, 476 F.3d
337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007)).
argues that summary judgment is appropriate for several
reasons. First, KCSR contends that the ICC Termination Act of
1995, 49 U.S.C. §§ 10101, et seq. preempts
Walton's negligence claim for blocking the track. Second,
it argues Walton cannot establish KCSR had a duty to minimize
the time it blocked the track. Third, KCSR argues that Walton
was a trespasser at the time the accident occurred, and
therefore KCSR only had to refrain from injuring him
willfully or wantonly. Finally, KCSR argues that even if
Walton were a licensee, KCSR still only had a duty not to
injure him willfully or wantonly because the crew was unaware
of his presence.