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Coll v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 13, 2019




         Plaintiffs Raymond Coll and Deborah Coll, his wife, initiated this personal injury action against Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX"), alleging that Mr. Coll sustained serious and permanent injuries as a result of CSX's negligent and reckless conduct, in causing a collision between Mr. Coil's vehicle and an oncoming train. ECF No. 4.

         Presently before the Court is CSX's Motion to Dismiss Requests for Punitive Damages. ECF No. 19. For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Dismiss will be denied without prejudice.


         On July 14, 2018, Raymond Coll was performing weed control services on CSX railroads in the course of his employment with DBI Services, LLC. ECF No. 4 ¶¶ 13, 37. To perform his job, Coll was required to enter CSX railroads using a Hi-Rail vehicle, a truck equipped with a gear that allows a vehicle to ride on railroad tracks as necessary. Id. ¶¶ 18-19.

         CSX assigned one of its employees to act as a "Pilot" to escort Coll onto its property. CSX was in radio contact with its Pilot and stated that the portion of the railroad to be used by Coll was clear for him to perform weed control activities, under the escort of the Pilot.

         Coll alleges that without warning or instruction to do so, the Pilot lowered the rail gear before the Hi-Rail was in a safe and proper position. Coll exited the vehicle to investigate, but heard the horn of an approaching train. Coll took refuge in the Hi-Rail vehicle, but could not move the vehicle out of danger because of the Pilot's actions. The oncoming train struck the Hi-Rail vehicle, and Coll sustained serious and permanent injuries, leaving him disabled.

         Coll alleges that CSX is vicariously liable for the conduct of its Pilot who was negligent and reckless in, inter alia, positioning the Hi-Rail vehicle across adjacent track, placing Coll in danger, and failing to warn Coll of the presence of an approaching train. Id. ¶46. Coll further alleges that CSX was negligent in failing to alert its Pilot of the approaching train, failing to provide appropriate training to its Pilot to ensure Plaintiffs safety, violating certain federal regulations regarding safety of personnel on its property and, in so doing, intentionally and wantonly disregarded safety measures that a prudent company would take to prevent injury or harm. Id. ¶¶ 51-53.

         CSX contends that the allegations set forth in the Amended Complaint are insufficient to state a claim for punitive damages and, accordingly, has filed the instant Motion to Dismiss.


         In assessing the sufficiency of the complaint pursuant to a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff Odd v. Malone. 538 F.3d 202, 205 (3d Cir. 2008). While a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations to survive the motion to dismiss, a complaint must provide more than labels and conclusions. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" and sufficient "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly 550 U.S. at 555, 570.

         "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.... Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief" Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly 550 U.S. at 557).

         In other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is required to make "a showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008). "This 'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,' but instead 'simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element.'" Id. at 234, quoting Twombly 550 U.S. at 556 n. 3.

         To determine the sufficiency of a complaint, "a court... must take three steps," that include (1) taking note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identifying allegations that are merely legal conclusions "because they ... are not entitled to the assumption of truth;" and (3) assuming the veracity of all well-pleaded factual allegations and determining "whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 675, 679). If the court finds, even after construing the complaint in the light most favorable to the ...

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