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Santanna v. Delaware and Hudson Railway Company Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 31, 2014

ERMOND SANTANNA, Plaintiff
v.
DELAWARE AND HUDSON RAILWAY COMPANY INC. d/b/a CP RAIL SYSTEMS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

JAMES M. MUNLEY, District Judge.

Before the court for disposition is Defendant Delaware and Hudson Railway Company Inc.'s motion for reconsideration of its motion in limine to exclude evidence of alleged injuries sustained prior to 1991. This issue has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

Background[1]

This case arises from injuries suffered by Plaintiff Ermond Santanna (hereinafter "plaintiff") during the course of his employment with Defendant Delaware and Hudson Railway Company, Inc. (d/b/a CP Rail Systems) (hereinafter "defendant") as well as defendant's predecessor company, the Delaware and Hudson Railroad Corporation (hereinafter "D&H"). Plaintiff was hired by D&H in 1977 and worked for approximately one year as a trackman. He then entered train service in July 1978, working as a conductor or brakeman for D&H and then for defendant until December 2011 when medical issues with both of his knees precluded continued employment.

In 1988, D&H went bankrupt. In 1991, defendant purchased substantially all of D&H's corporate assets pursuant to an Asset Purchase Agreement. Plaintiff alleges that he suffered a knee injury in January 2010 when he fell while working in defendant's Mohawk Yard. Additionally, plaintiff claims a cumulative trauma injury - also known as a repetitive stress injury - caused by years of walking on uneven surfaces on or near the tracks where he worked. As a result of the cumulative trauma, plaintiff developed severe arthritis in his knees causing him to be disabled.

Plaintiff initiated this action on June 28, 2012, pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. ยงยง 51-60, for injuries and damages allegedly sustained during the course of his employment with defendant.

In anticipation of the pretrial conference, defendant filed two motions in limine. (Docs. 20, 22). Defendant's motions sought to: (1) exclude the testimony of plaintiff's two proposed expert witnesses; and (2) preclude plaintiff from entering into evidence any alleged injuries sustained prior to January 1991. After careful consideration, the court denied defendant's motions in limine. Defendant then filed the instant motion for reconsideration, and the parties briefed the issues bringing the case to its present posture.

Legal Standard

Defendant seeks reconsideration of the court's February 18, 2014 order, which denied defendant's motion in limine to exclude evidence of alleged injuries sustained prior to 1991. "The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki , 799 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985); Max's Seafood Cafe ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros , 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). The movant must demonstrate one of three grounds for such a motion to be granted: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence not previously available; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice. Max's Seafood Cafe , 176 F.3d at 677. A motion for reconsideration is not a proper vehicle merely to attempt to convince the court to rethink a decision it has already made. Glendon Energy Co. v. Borough of Glendon , 836 F.Supp.1109, 1122 (E.D. Pa. 1993). Such motions may not be used to give a dissatisfied party a chance to "[change] theories and try again, " and thus obtain a "second bite at the apple.'" Bhatnagar v. Surrendra Overseas Ltd. , 52 F.3d 1220, 1231 (3d Cir. 1995); see also Ogden v. Keystone Residence , 226 F.Supp.2d 588, 606 (M.D. Pa. 2002) (finding that "The simple fact that [plaintiff] is unhappy with the result of the April 19, 2001 opinion is an insufficient basis to grant her relief.").

Discussion

In our Memorandum and Order dated February 18, 2014, we denied defendant's motion in limine to exclude evidence of plaintiff's alleged injuries sustained prior to 1991 under a theory of successor liability. We first found that the defendant, as the successor corporation to the predecessor D&H, had notice of its potential liability for plaintiff's work-force related injuries. We then focused on the continuity of operations between the defendant corporation and D&H and determined that they were so parallel in operations, services and employees that they remained sufficiently similar entities. Finally, we found that the now defunct D&H was incapable of providing adequate relief to the plaintiff.

In its motion for reconsideration, defendant does not assert an intervening change in controlling law or new evidence not previously available. Rather, defendant argues that the court committed a manifest error of law by inappropriately applying successor liability principles. The defendant also argues that even if successor liability principles apply, the factual record does not support a finding of successor liability. We will address each argument separately.

I. Successor Liability Law

Defendant relies on Pennsylvania's successor liability doctrine, which states that when a buyer (transferee) entity purchases all of the assets of the seller (transferor) entity, the buyer entity cannot be held liable for the debts and liabilities, including torts, of the transferor. Husak v. Berkel Inc. , 341 A.2d 174 (Pa.Super. Ct. 1975); Conway v. White Trucks , 885 F.2d 90 (3d Cir. 1989). Under this rule, ...


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