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J.K. v. CSX Transportation

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 29, 2015

J.K., a minor by and through his parents and natural guardians, Thomas Kpakah and Esther Kpakah, THOMAS KPAKAH and ESTHER KPAKAH, in their own right, Plaintiffs,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, RAYMOND LAWRENCE WASH and MICHAEL L. DOYLE, SR., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

DuBois, J

I.INTRODUCTION

This action arises out of personal injuries sustained by plaintiff J.K., a minor, after he was struck by a CSX Transportation, Inc. (“CSXT”) train allegedly operated by defendants Raymond Lawrence Wash and Michael L. Doyle, Sr. at a grade crossing in Darby, Pennsylvania. Presently before the Court are: (1) Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2) (“Motion for a Voluntary Dismissal”); (2) Defendant CSX Transportation Inc.’s Motion to Compel Depositions of Thomas Kpakah, Esther Kpakah and J.K. (“Motion to Compel”); and (3) Defendant CSX Transportation Inc.’s Motion to Enforce the Court’s Order of March 9, 2015 and for Entry of the Protective Orders (“Motion to Enforce”).

For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs’ Motion for a Voluntary Dismissal is granted, and defendant CSXT’s Motion to Compel and Motion to Enforce are denied as moot.

II.BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

In the Amended Complaint, plaintiff J.K. and his parents, plaintiffs Thomas and Esther Kpakah, allege the following facts: On July 9, 2013, J.K., who was eleven years old at the time, was walking to school when he approached a railroad crossing at the intersection of 6th and Main Streets in Darby, Pennsylvania. (Am. Compl. ¶ 10.) There were no pedestrian gates at the intersection. (Id. ¶ 16.) While attempting to walk through the railroad crossing, J.K. was struck by a CSXT train operated and controlled by Raymond Lawrence Wash and Michael L. Doyle, Sr. (Id. ¶¶ 6–7, 9–10.) Plaintiffs aver that the train was being operated at an excessive rate of speed, and that Wash and Doyle failed to adequately warn J.K. of their approach. (Id. ¶ 12.) As a result of the accident, J.K. suffered severe physical injuries. (Id. ¶ 13.)

B. Procedural History

On December 20, 2013, plaintiffs J.K., Thomas Kpakah, and Esther Kpakah, filed suit against defendants CSXT, Raymond Lawrence Wash, and Michael L. Doyle, Sr. in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. On February 3, 2014, defendants timely filed a Notice of Removal in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446.[1] On February 4, 2014, just hours before the Notice of Removal was docketed in this Court by the Clerk’s Office, the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia entered three separate default judgments against defendants. Defendants filed a motion to vacate those default judgments in this Court. Defendants also separately filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ Complaint in which they sought dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims of negligence and recklessness. By Memorandum and Order dated September 16, 2014, the Court vacated the default judgments entered against defendants by the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, granted in part and denied in part defendants’ motion to dismiss, [2] and allowed the case to proceed. See J.K. ex rel. Kpakah v. CSX Transp., No. 14-729, 2014 WL 4632356, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 16, 2014).

During the course of discovery, numerous disputes arose between the parties. Those disputes related to, inter alia, plaintiffs’ request that the depositions of defendants Wash and Doyle take place in Philadelphia, [3] and defendants’ claimed failure to respond to certain of plaintiffs’ interrogatories and to produce a videotape of the train collision. The Court referred the disputes to Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Reuter, and he resolved most of the issues.[4] See Orders dated February 25, 2015; March 9, 2015; March 13, 2015.

On June 19, 2015, plaintiffs filed a Motion for a Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2). In the Motion, plaintiffs request that the Court dismiss this case without prejudice to allow them to pursue a separate action they recently filed in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. See J.K. et al. v. CSX Transportation, Inc. et al., Civil Action No. 2015-004095 (Del. C.P., filed May 6, 2015). The Delaware County case arises out of the same train collision at issue in this case and includes the same defendants named in the Amended Complaint and three new defendants: Darby Borough, PennDOT, and the PUC. Plaintiffs contend that the filing of a separate action in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas was necessary because: (i) they have learned through discovery in this case that Darby Borough, PennDOT, and the PUC - not defendant CSXT - are responsible for the design and installation of pedestrian gates at railroad crossings; and (ii) Darby Borough, a Pennsylvania citizen, cannot be added to this lawsuit because doing so would destroy this Court’s diversity jurisdiction.

III.DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2)

The Court first addresses plaintiffs’ Motion for a Voluntary Dismissal. Plaintiffs argue that their Motion should be granted because allowing them to proceed against all potentially liable defendants in one action in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas would avoid the risk of inconsistent verdicts in the two actions. Plaintiffs further contend that defendants will not be substantially prejudiced by the granting of their Motion because the discovery obtained in this case can be used in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas action. In response, defendants argue that plaintiffs’ Motion should be denied because: (i) plaintiffs have not been diligent in bringing their motion to dismiss; (ii) plaintiffs’ claims against Darby Borough, PennDOT, and the PUC are not “likely to stand”; (iii) discovery in this action is nearly complete; (iv) defendants have expended considerable effort and incurred significant expenses thus far in the litigation and will ...


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