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BOUCHARD v. CSX TRANSPORTATION

September 16, 2005.

VILMA BOUCHARD, ADMINISTRATRIX OF ESTATE OF SAMANTHA A. BOUCHARD, Plaintiff,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARTHUR SCHWAB, District Judge

Memorandum Opinion

This is a negligence wrongful death action. Plaintiff, Vilma Bouchard (hereinafter "Bouchard"), Admistratrix of the Estate of Samatha A. Bouchard (hereinafter "Ms. Bouchard") who was tragically hit by a train that was owned and operated by defendant, CSX Transportation (hereinafter "CSX") while riding her bicycle. Plaintiff alleges that CSX was negligent in several respects, thereby causing the untimely death of Ms. Bouchard. Pending before this Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted.

I. Facts

  Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed.

  1. On May 25, 2003, at approximately 3:15 p.m., Ms. Bouchard was riding her bicycle in a northerly direction on Juniper Street in Versailles Borough, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

  2. Ms. Bouchard stopped her bicycle on the south side of the crossing and at the right edge of the roadway, as a CSX train was traveling eastbound (from Ms. Bouchard's left to her right) through the crossing on the track closest to the south side of the crossing. 3. The photographs attached as Exhibit "A" and "B" to CSX's Request for Admissions Directed to Plaintiff are fair and accurate representations of the Juniper Street crossing in Versailles, Pennsylvania as it existed on May 25, 2005, and show the vantage point of persons located on the south side of the crossing.

  4. From the vantage point of Ms. Bouchard on the south side of the crossing, the warning devices existing at the crossing included flashing light signals, a sign that says "3 tracks," and cross bucks, an "X" shaped sign which reads "Railroad Crossing."

  5. On May 25, 2003, the weather was sunny and warm, and Robert Dodds, a witness, was driving in a 1989 pickup.

  6. As he approached the crossing, the flashing warning lights on the south side of the crossing were in operation and were blinking red.

  7. When Mr. Dodds arrived at the crossing, Ms. Bouchard was already stopped on the right edge of the roadway and the eastbound train was in the crossing.

  8. Mr. Dodds pulled his vehicle next to Ms. Bouchard so that he was located to her left on the south side of the crossing.

  9. From his and Ms. Bouchard's vantage point, the eastbound train was on the inside track (i.e. the first track closest to Ms. Bouchard and Mr. Dodds), and was traveling from their left to their right.*fn1

  10. The flashing lights on the south side of the crossing were operational (at least when Mr. Dodd first approached), and Ms. Bouchard was located five feet south of the flashing light, far enough back that she could see the flashing lights.

  11. Mr. Dodds never observed the warning lights stop flashing, but he also did not look at them after he first approached the crossing.

  12. Mr. Dodds recalled giving a statement to CSX claims representative and he recalled saying that "the crossing lights were still going and the girl took off on her bike and a train going the other way hit her."

  13. When Ms. Bouchard was learning how to drive at age 16, over eight years prior to this accident, her mother told her that when she came to a railroad crossing with red flashing lights, she was supposed to stop, wait until the lights stopped flashing, look both ways, and be sure the crossing was clear before proceeding.

  14. According to plaintiff, Ms. Bouchard and Mr. Dodds waited about five to ten minutes for the eastbound train to pass through the crossing. Defendant contends that Ms. Bouchard and Mr. Dodds waited five minutes for the train to pass.

  15. According to defendant, as soon as the eastbound train cleared the crossing, Ms. Bouchard glanced from her left to her right, and then "took off" on her bicycle, while Mr. Dodds remained stationary in his vehicle and never took his foot off the brake. Whereas, plaintiff alleges that after the eastbound train (the first train) had cleared the crossing by about 50 feet and before pedaling into the crossing, Ms. Bouchard looked to her left and to her right, but because the first train blocked her vision of the second train, she did not see that train.

  16. As Ms. Bouchard was pedaling over the crossing onto the second track, the right front of the westbound CSX locomotive struck the back tire of Ms. Bouchard's bicycle. 17. On the date of the accident, Jeffrey Taylor, who was sitting on the right side of the locomotive cab, was the engineer and operator of the westbound CSX train traveling on the second or middle track, and Brian Frazee, who was sitting to the left of Mr. Taylor, was the conductor.

  18. Defendant contends that Mr. Taylor was certified as a locomotive engineer by the Federal Railroad Administration ("FRA") beginning in March, 1999 and was certified to operate the train on the date of the accident. Plaintiff disputes this contention and states that Mr. Taylor was required to receive certification of his Operating Rule in 2003 and the records show that he had not done so and thus he was not certified to operate the train on the day of the incident.

  19. Defendant claims that Mr. Frazee was qualified as a conductor as of May 25, 2003, and was up to date on his operating rules test. Plaintiff disputes this contention and states that Mr. Frazee was not up to date on his operating ...


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