United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
GIBSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment.
(ECF No. 44.) The issues have been fully briefed
(see ECF Nos. 45, 46, 52, 53, 58) and the motion is
ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow,
Defendant's motion will be GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part.
before the Court is Defendant's motion to strike
Plaintiff's request for summary judgment. (ECF No. 55.)
Defendant's motion will be DENIED as
Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the instant action
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332 and 28 U.S.C. § 1441.
Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391.
initiated this action by filing a complaint in the Court of
Common Pleas of Cambria County, Pennsylvania, on November 3,
2014. (ECF No. 1.) Defendant removed the case to this Court
on November 26, 2014. (Id.) This Court heard oral
argument on Defendant's motion for summary judgment on
February 9, 2017. (See ECF No. 48.)
analyzing the complex legal issues involved in this case, the
Court will briefly summarize the facts.
around 1:00 p.m. on January 18, 2013, Plaintiff approached
the Ferndale Crossing in Cambria County, Pennsylvania
("the Crossing") on foot, walking north to south.
(ECF No. 46 at 5.) It was a "clear and cold" day,
and at 1:00 p.m. it was "daylight." (ECF No. 53 at
7.) Plaintiff lived near the Ferndale Crossing and was
generally familiar with the area. (Id.) In fact, he
had traversed the Ferndale Crossing on several prior
occasions, on foot and by car. (Id.) However,
Plaintiff had not previously encountered a train at the
Crossing, and assumed that the crossing was essentially
unused. (Id.) Unfortunately for Plaintiff, the
Crossing was not unused.
Plaintiff walked towards the Crossing that cold, clear
January afternoon, a train was also approaching the
intersection, traveling eastbound on the Crossing's only
track. (Id. at 8.) As Plaintiff stepped onto the
Crossing, he was struck by the train. Plaintiff suffered
serious injuries, and his lower left leg was amputated.
(Id. at 23.)
Crossing itself had neither a bell (Id. at 13) nor a
gate. (ECF No. 52 at 38.) However, the parties agree that
several warnings existed to warn people that the train was
about to enter the Crossing. First, approximately twenty-five
seconds before the train entered the Crossing, automated
warning lights at the Crossing activated, and flashed
continuously until the collision. (ECF No. 46 at 31.) Second,
as the train approached the Crossing, three lights on the
lead engine unit were illuminated: the headlight was on and
two lights below the headlight were flashing. (Id.
at 11.) Third, the train sounded its horn approximately
sixteen (16) seconds before it entered the Crossing, and
issued several horn blasts. (See Id. at 10; ECF No.
53 at 12.) Fourth, the train's bell was ringing. (ECF No.
53 at 13.)
traffic stopped to allow the train to pass. (Id. at
10.) However, while these warnings successfully alerted
nearby motorists, Plaintiff was completely unaware of the
was "walking at a steady pace... with his head down,
hood up, [and] cell phone in hand." (Id.)
Plaintiff was listening to music on his cell phone (ECF No.
46-5 at 97) without earbuds (Id. at 98) by holding
his phone up to his ear on the outside of his hood.
(Id. at 101.) Plaintiff never heard the train's
horn or bell. (Id. at 126.) Plaintiff never looked
up at all as he approached the Crossing (Id. at
101), and did not notice that vehicular traffic had stopped.
(Id.) Plaintiff never looked to see if a train was
approaching (Id.), and never looked up at the
warning lights. (Id.)
crew members were aboard the train at the time of the
accident: Engineer Richard Spicola, Conductor Jared Rhodes,
and Jack Churby. The parties do not dispute that Conductor
Rhodes activated the emergency brake sometime before the
collision with Plaintiff. (See ECF No. 53 at 20.)
Defendant claims, and Plaintiff does not present any evidence
to dispute, that the emergency brake had already been applied
before Plaintiff stepped onto the track. (See ECF
No. 46 at 15.) However, the parties dispute how long before
impact the brake was applied.
parties do not dispute that the train was equipped with an
event recorder which measured train speed, and that the event
recorder data indicates that the train was travelling between
11.3 and 11.6 miles per hour in the seconds before the
collision. (See Event Recorder Data, ECF No. 46-2 at
58.) Additionally, the parties do not dispute that an
automatic signaling system, which measures speed based on
voltage and is independent of the event recorder, measured
the train's speed as 11 miles per hour when the train was
approximately 79 feet from the center of the Crossing.
(See ECF No. 53 at 21.) The parties do not dispute
that the federally-mandated speed limit for the track was 10
miles per hour. (See ECF No. 44 at 15.)
The 2007 Crossing Update
undisputed that federal funds were used to update the
Crossing in 2007. (See ECF No. 46 at 4-5; ECF No. 53
at 4-5.) While the parties disagree about the nature and
extent of the update, Plaintiff admits that the upgrade
entailed "installation of the tract circuitry for the
automatic warning activation." (ECF No. 53 at 5.)
Moreover, Defendant has presented evidence through deposition
testimony, which Plaintiff does not dispute, detailing the
specific improvements made to the Crossing. (See
Deposition of Brent Lewis, ECF No. 46-7.) Specifically,
Defendant has presented undisputed evidence that the
improvements consisted of: (1) installation of a "new
crossing enclosure, " i.e. "the silver shed looking
structure... that houses all of the control mechanisms for
the crossing" (Id. at 91); (2) renewal of
"all of... the electrical cables" and the entire
"electrical service at the crossing"
(Id.); (3) replacement of the "subgrade device
that holds the illuminating structures, the pole, the lights
and the crossbuck" (Id.); (4) and installation
of a new "predictor, " which "[is] used to
activate the lights and actually provides the voltage to
illuminate the bulb." (Id. at 95-96.)
judgment is appropriate only where ... there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact... and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Melrose,
Inc. v. Pittsburgh, 613 F.3d 380, 387 (3d Cir.2010)
(quoting Ruehl v. Viacom, Inc., 500 F.3d 375, 380 n.
6 (3d Cir.2007)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Issues of fact
are genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986); see also McGreevy v. Stroup, 413 F.3d 359,
363 (3d Cir. 2005). Material facts are those that will affect
the outcome of the trial under governing law.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The Court's role is
"not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of
the matter, but only to determine whether the evidence of
record is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party." Am. Eagle Outfitters v.
Lyle & Scott Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009).
"In making this determination, 'a court must view
the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party
and draw all inferences in that party's favor/"
Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers Co., 206 F.3d 271,
278 (3d Cir.2000) (quoting Armbruster v. Unisys
Corp., 32 F.3d 768, 777 (3d Cir. 1994).
moving party bears the initial responsibility of stating the
basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the
record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the
moving party meets this burden, the party opposing summary
judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or
denials" of the pleading, but "must set forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial." Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228,
232 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 n. 11 (1986)).
"For an issue to be genuine, the nonmovant needs to
supply more than a scintilla of evidence in support of its
position-there must be sufficient evidence (not mere
allegations) for a reasonable jury to find for the
nonmovant." Coolspring Stone Supply v. Am. States
Life Ins. Co., 10 F.3d 144, 148 (3d Cir.1993); see
also Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Sew., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d
Cir. 2005) (noting that a party opposing summary judgment
"must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory
allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine
issue") (internal quotation marks omitted).
state a claim for negligence under Pennsylvania law, the
plaintiff must allege the following elements: (1) a legal
duty; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) a causal relationship
between the defendant's negligence and plaintiff's
injuries; and (4) damages." Andrews v. Fullington
Trail Ways, LLC, No. CV 3:15-228, 2016 WL 3748579, at *4
(W.D. Pa. 2016), citing City of Philadelphia v. Beretta
U.S.A. Corp., 277 F.3d 415, 422 n. 9 (3d Cir. 2002).
establish the causation element in a negligence claim, a
plaintiff must allege that the defendant's breach of his
legal duty was both the proximate and actual cause of
injury." McCullough v. Peeples, No. CIV.A.
3:14-123, 2015 WL1000223, at *3 (W.D. Pa. 2015), citing
Reilly v. Tiergarten Inc., 430 Pa.Super. 10, 633 A.2d
208, 210 (Pa.Super.1993). "Actual causation is present
when the alleged injury would not have occurred but for a
certain act or presence of a condition... while proximate
causation requires that the defendant's wrongful act be a
substantial factor in bringing about the plaintiff's
harm." Andrews, 2016 WL 3748579 at *5, citing
Dudley v. USX Corp., 414 Pa. Super. 160, 606 A.2d
916, 923 (Pa. Super. 1992) (internal quotations omitted).
Plaintiff must prove both elements of causation "by a
preponderance of the evidence." Hamil v.
Bashline, 481 Pa. 256, 265, 392 A.2d 1280, 1284 (1978).
of proximate cause are typically reserved for the jury."
Vanesko v. Marina Dist. Dev. Co., LLC, 38 F.Supp.3d
535, 543 (E.D. Pa. 2014) (internal citations omitted.).
However, "[n]othing precludes a court from determining
proximate cause as a matter of law if a jury could not
reasonably differ on the issue." Garlick v. Anadarko
Petroleum Corp., No. 4:12-CV-01166, 2017 WL 3485738, at
*16 (M.D. Pa. 2017), citing Chetty Holdings Inc. v.
NorthMarq Capital, LLC, 556 Fed.Appx. 118, 121 (3d Cir.
negligence claims fit into the following five categories: (a)
negligent handling and operation of the train for failure to
slow or stop before it struck Plaintiff; (b) negligent
operation of the train for exceeding the authorized speed
limit; (c) negligent lack of pedestrian warning devices at
the Crossing; (d) negligent maintenance of the Crossing; and
(e) negligent failure to issue proper audible warnings to
announce the approach of the train. Plaintiff also seeks
Court will address these claims in turn.
Negligent Handling and Operation of the Train
Duty and Breach
leading case in Pennsylvania regarding the duties owed to
pedestrians at train crossings is Moss v. Reading
Co.,418 Pa. 598, 212 A.2d 226 (1965). In Moss,
the administrator of the decedent's estate brought a
negligence suit against a railroad company, claiming that
defendant's train should have slowed or stopped before
striking the decedent. Id. at 601. At trial the
train's engineer testified that he first saw decedent
when decedent was approximately 1, 500 feet ahead of the
train across the roadbed. Id. at 600. Once decedent
proceeded across a nearby set of tracks, the engineer blew
the train's whistle but he did not apply the emergency
brake; he thought decedent would stop at the adjacent track,
rather than proceeding onto the track upon which the train
was traveling. Id. at ...