Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Transportation Law
Mohr v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
In April 2017, Jerry Mohr, a Mobile County resident and an employee of CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX"), was injured in an on-the-job accident while working on a crew that was repairing a section of CSX railroad track near the Chef Menteur Bridge in Louisiana. Mohr sued CSX in the Mobile Circuit Court, asserting a negligence claim under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"). The trial court ultimately entered a summary judgment in favor of CSX. Mohr appealed that judgment, arguing there were genuine issues of material fact that could only be resolved by a jury. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mohr v. CSX Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law
Ex parte Road Gear Truck Equipment, LLC.
Road Gear Truck Equipment, LLC ("Road Gear"), a corporation based in Franklin County, petitions this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Marshall Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Road Gear's motion to transfer the underlying action to the Franklin Circuit Court and to enter an order transferring the action. Road Gear manufactures trucking equipment, including "cab guards" designed to prevent passengers in tractor-trailer trucks from being injured by shifting loads. Vernon Dement was operating a tractor trailer pulling a load of logs in Madison County, Alabama. While traveling, Dement's truck over turned on a curve in the road. The cargo crashed into the passenger compartment, crushing Dement to death inside the vehicle, and injuring his wife Deborah Dement, who was a passenger in the truck. Deborah filed suit in Marshall County on behalf of herself and in her capacity as the personal representative and administrator of the estate of her husband against Road Gear and fictitiously named defendants. Dement alleged that her injuries and the death of her husband were caused by Road Gear's negligence and wantonness and that Road Gear was liable under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability Doctrine ("the AEMLD"). Dement alleged in her complaint that venue was proper in Marshall County because she resided in Marshall County and Road Gear "does business in Marshall County." The Alabama Supreme Court determined FleetPride was Road Gear's "agent" in Marshall County for purposes of determining venue, and that Road Gear failed to show that it did not regularly do business in Marshall County at the time the suit was filed. Therefore, the trial court did not err in denying Road Gear's motion to transfer the action to Franklin County. View "Ex parte Road Gear Truck Equipment, LLC." on Justia Law
Ex parte Birmingham Airport Authority.
Terri Bargsley filed a negligence and wantonness action against the Birmingham Airport Authority ("the BAA") seeking to recover damages for injuries Bargsley allegedly incurred in a fall at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport ("the airport"), which the BAA managed and operated. The BAA filed a motion to dismiss Bargsley's tort action, claiming that it was entitled to immunity under various sections of the Alabama Code 1975. The circuit court granted the BAA's motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part. The circuit court determined that the BAA was entitled to immunity from Bargsley's negligence claim but that it was not entitled to immunity from Bargsley's wantonness claim. The BAA then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to vacate the portion of its order denying the BAA's motion to dismiss as to Bargsley's wantonness claim and to enter an order dismissing Bargsley's wantonness claim. Finding that the BAA demonstrated it had a clear legal right to a dismissal of Bargsley's tort action, including the wantonness claim, the Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ. The circuit court was ordered to grant the BAA's motion to dismiss in its entirety. View "Ex parte Birmingham Airport Authority." on Justia Law
Cottles v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.
Before the incident that precipitated this lawsuit, Jeff Cottles had worked as a track switchman for Norfolk Southern Railway Company for seven years. The process of "throwing" a switch involves pulling the handle up, moving it in an arc from right to left, stopping in the upright position, and then continuing to move the handle down and to the left. Cottles testified that the track 4 switch was harder to throw than the other switches in the Daikin plant. One early morning during his shift, Cottles attempted to throw the track 4 switch again. This time when he pushed the handle down the switch suddenly froze about one foot from the ground, and, according to Cottles, he felt pain in his back and neck. Within a week of the incident, Cottles's pain from his injuries had become so severe that he was unable to continue his job. He was diagnosed with bulging disks in his neck and a pinched nerve in his back. Cottles has not been able to return to work since rotator cuff surgery. It was undisputed that Daikin, not Norfolk Southern, owned the tracks and switches inside its plant. Regardless of who was notified, Daikin itself was required to address the issue and then to notify Norfolk Southern that the problem had been fixed. After Norfolk Southern received word from Daikin that maintenance had been performed, a Norfolk Southern track inspector would inspect the switch to confirm that the repairs had been completed. Cottles filed a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) action against Norfolk Southern alleging that Norfolk Southern "failed to provide [Cottles] with a reasonably safe place to work" and that, as a result, Cottles sustained permanent damage to his neck and his back. In addition to his claims of negligence, Cottles asserted that Norfolk Southern was strictly liable under the Federal Safety Appliance Act ("FSAA") and/or "applicable FRA standards." Norfolk Southern moved for summary judgment, contending that Cottles' own testimony that he had thrown the track 4 switch three to six times earlier during his shift "without incident" and the fact that his own visual inspection before each throw had not revealed any defects in the switch demonstrated that Norfolk Southern had no notice that the track 4 switch was defective. At the hearing on Norfolk Southern's motion for a summary judgment, Cottles's counsel conceded that Cottles' strict liability claim under the FSAA should have been dismissed. The trial court later entered summary judgment in favor of Norfolk Southern on the FELA claims too. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that Cottles presented substantial evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Norfolk Southern negligently failed to provide him with a reasonably safe workplace. Accordingly, the Court reversed summary judgment in favor of Norfolk Southern, and remanded the action to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Cottles v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law
Norfolk Southern Railway Company v. Goldthwaite
James H. Goldthwaite lived in his Birmingham house for approximately 45 years. The house was adjacent to or near property on which were actively used railroad tracks owned by Norfolk Southern. The record reflected that Norfolk Southern used one of the railroad tracks located near Goldthwaite's house as a staging or temporary storage area for coal trains, which consist of empty rail cars and cars loaded with coal. In October 2013, Goldthwaite filed a complaint against Norfolk Southern alleging that his "life, health, liberty and possessions" have been harmed by noise and "noxious fumes" from the diesel locomotives that were left running in coal trains that are temporarily stored near his house. Norfolk Southern had the case removed to the United States District Court on the ground that Goldthwaite's claims were completely preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995, and that the federal district court had federal question jurisdiction for the limited purpose of dismissing the action. In April 2014, the federal district court held that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the action because Goldthwaite's state-law claims were not completely preempted by the ICCTA. Holding that removal of the action from state court was not proper, the federal district court remanded the case to the Jefferson Circuit Court. On remand, Norfolk Southern moved the circuit court to dismiss the action, arguing, among other things, that Goldthwaite's claims were preempted under the ICCTA because, it maintained, the nuisance action was an attempt to regulate transportation by rail carrier and actions related to the regulation and operation of rail carriers, pursuant to the ICCTA, were within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Surface Transportation Board. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed that Goldthwaite's claims were preempted by the ICCTA, the circuit court erred in denying Norfolk Southern's motion to dismiss. Therefore, the Court reversed the circuit court's order denying Norfolk Southern's motion to dismiss and rendered a judgment for Norfolk Southern, dismissing Goldthwaite's state court action. View "Norfolk Southern Railway Company v. Goldthwaite" on Justia Law