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WOODBINE AUTO, INC. v. SEPTA & CONRAIL

June 16, 1998

WOODBINE AUTO, INC. and ERIC ROONEY and JOSEPH ROONEY and JESSIE LYDIA ROONEY and WOODBINE PROPERTY, INC.
v.
SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY and CONSOLIDATED RAIL CORP. and NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORP. and CITY OF PHILADELPHIA



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOYNER

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

 JOYNER, J.

 June 16, 1998

 Defendants National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("AMTRAK") and the City of Philadelphia now move for the entry of summary judgment in their favor on all of the plaintiff's claims against them. For the reasons which follow, the motions must be denied.

 Background

 In the late afternoon and early evening hours on July 14, 1994, the greater Philadelphia area experienced a series of severe thunderstorms accompanied by high winds and heavy rain. In the course of these storms, the plaintiffs' real and personal property located at 2161-2171 North 62nd Street in the City of Philadelphia were flooded and consequently damaged. Plaintiffs commenced this lawsuit against defendants Amtrak, Septa and Conrail, as well as against the City, alleging that the railroad defendants should be held liable for plaintiffs' damages because in the course of their ownership, possession and control of the real estate and railroad right of way, these defendants artificially diverted rain water and increased the quantity of rainwater such that it would flood neighboring streets and property. (Complaint, Ps11-15). Plaintiffs further aver that Amtrak, Conrail *fn1" and Septa were negligent and careless in that they purportedly failed to inspect and maintain the area where the flooding occurred, failed to warn them and failed to prevent or diminish the flooding. (Complaint, P17).

 As against the defendant city, plaintiffs allege that its sewer system was in a dangerous condition in that it would back up and cause flooding in the area of Woodbine Avenue, Upland Way and 62nd Street. This dangerous condition, plaintiffs further aver, was caused by the City's alleged failure to properly inspect, repair and maintain the system. (Complaint, Ps18-22).

 By way of its motion, Amtrak submits that it is entitled to judgment in its favor as there is no evidence that it ever did anything to increase the quality or quantity of the water flow in the area between Woodbine Avenue and Overbrook station and because plaintiffs' damages were caused by an act of God and not by any negligence on its part. The City likewise contends that there is no evidence that a failure to maintain the storm sewers caused plaintiffs' damages and they cannot recover for damages caused by flooding due merely to the inadequacy of municipal storm sewers.

 Summary Judgment Standards

 The standards for determining whether summary judgment is properly entered in cases pending before the district courts are governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Subsection (c) of that rule states, in pertinent part,

 
... The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. A summary judgment, interlocutory in character, may be rendered on the issue of liability alone although there is a genuine issue as to the amount of damages.

 In this way, a motion for summary judgment requires the court to look beyond the bare allegations of the pleadings to determine if they have sufficient factual support to warrant their consideration at trial. Liberty Lobby, Inc. v. Dow Jones & Co., 267 U.S. App. D.C. 337, 838 F.2d 1287 (D.C. Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 825, 109 S. Ct. 75, 102 L. Ed. 2d 51 (1988). See Also: Aries Realty, Inc. v. AGS Columbia Associates, 751 F. Supp. 444 (S.D. N.Y. 1990).

 As a general rule, the party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). In considering a summary judgment motion, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and all reasonable inferences from the facts must be drawn in favor of that party as well. U.S. v. Kensington Hospital, 760 F. Supp. 1120 (E.D. Pa. 1991); Schillachi v. Flying Dutchman Motorcycle Club, 751 F. Supp. 1169 (E.D. Pa. 1990).

 When, however, "a motion for summary judgment is made and supported [by affidavits or otherwise], an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but the adverse party's response...must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If the adverse party does not so ...


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