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Glenn v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 12, 2014

RICHARD GLENN, Plaintiff,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Richard Glenn ("Plaintiff"), a Maryland resident, brings this action against Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. ("Defendant") due to injuries he sustained while attempting to pass between the cars of a train located on Defendant's railroad tracks in Baltimore, Maryland. The train, which was stationary at the time Plaintiff tried to pass through it, began to move and caused significant injury to the Plaintiff when the train's wheel ran over his right foot. Plaintiff is suing Defendant for compensatory and punitive damages, alleging that Defendant engaged in willful and wanton, negligent, and abnormally dangerous conduct. Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No.

7). The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 7) is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations in a plaintiff's complaint must be accepted as true and those facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999).

On February 22, 2012, Plaintiff attempted to cross the Defendant's railroad tracks, which are adjacent to the 600 block of West Patapsco Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 4, 32. Defendant had an easement to use the property, and the particular location is frequently used by pedestrians to cross the railroad tracks. Id. ¶¶ 2, 6. The frequent foot traffic at this particular location caused a footway path to be engraved in the dirt and grass leading from the residential area to the railroad tracks. Id. ¶ 6. The Plaintiff had just finished cutting lawns on the Patapsco Avenue side of the tracks when he attempted to cross the railroad tracks with his weed whacker to go home. Id. ¶¶ 26, 27. As the Plaintiff approached the tracks, there was a stationary train with multiple railroad cars. Id. ¶ 28. The train was long enough that Plaintiff could not see the beginning or the end of the train. Id. ¶ 29. In attempting to cross the tracks, Plaintiff put his weed whacker on the coupler of a railroad car and began to climb over the car. Id. ¶ 32. Without any warning, the train began to move, which caused Plaintiff to fall to the tracks. Id. ¶ 35. While the Plaintiff was on the tracks, the train's wheel ran over his right foot, severing Plaintiff's toes, and eventually leading to the amputation of Plaintiff's leg. Id. ¶ 23, 35.

Based on the incident and Plaintiff's accompanying injury, Plaintiff filed suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, seeking both compensatory and punitive damages for Defendant's allegedly willful and wanton, negligent, and abnormally dangerous conduct. See compl., ECF No. 2. On March 14, 2014, the case was removed to this Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.[1] Currently pending is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 7) for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claim for wanton conduct (Count I) should be dismissed because Plaintiff alleges facts that amount to mere inaction rather than willful or wanton conduct. Second, Defendant states that Plaintiff's common law negligence claim (Count II) should be dismissed because Plaintiff was a trespasser, and thus, Defendant had no obligation to refrain from engaging in negligent conduct. Third, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claim that the operation of a railroad is an "abnormally dangerous activity" (Count III) should be dismissed because Plaintiff fails to address the relevant factors contained in § 520 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 7) is GRANTED.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; therefore, "the purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)). When ruling on such a motion, the court must "accept the well-pled allegations of the complaint as true, " and "construe the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). However, this Court "need not accept the legal conclusions drawn from the facts, and [this Court] need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions or arguments." Nemet v. Chevrolet, Ltd. V. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 253 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

The Supreme Court's recent opinions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, (2009), "require that complaints in civil actions be alleged with greater specificity than previously was required." Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). The Supreme Court's decision in Twombly articulated "[t]wo working principles" that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not afforded such deference. Id. (stating that "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" to plead a claim).

Second, a complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege "a plausible claim for relief." Id. at 679. Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain "more than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although the plausibility requirement does not impose a "probability requirement, " id. at 556, "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663; see also Robertson v. Sea Pines Real Estate Cos., 679 F.3d 278, 291 (4th Cir. 2012) ("A complaint need not make a case against a defendant or forecast evidence sufficient to prove an element of the claim. It need only allege facts sufficient to state elements of the claim." (emphasis in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). In short, a court must "draw on its judicial experience and common sense" to determine whether the pleader has stated a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 664.

ANALYSIS

CSX Transportation, Inc. moves to dismiss all of the counts alleged in Plaintiff's complaint. Where, as here, this Court has jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship, the substantive law of the forum state applies. See Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938) ("Except in matters governed by the Federal Constitution or by Acts of Congress, the law to be applied in any case is the law of the State."). Thus, this Court will apply the substantive law of Maryland, first addressing the negligence count (Count II), and then turning to the counts for willful and wanton conduct (Count I) and strict liability under the "abnormally dangerous activity" doctrine (Count III). As explained below, this Court holds that all three counts should be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

I. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiff's Claim of Negligence

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant breached its duty to the Plaintiff by negligently injuring him. Compl. ¶¶ 32-36. The crux of Plaintiff's argument is that (1) the Defendant was negligent by not having any footbridge, signs, watchmen, or other personnel to monitor whether anyone was in a vulnerable location at the time the train started moving, and (2) the Defendant did not issue a warning before beginning to move the train. Id. ¶ 34. The Defendant argues that it owed no duty to Plaintiff to ...


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