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Hinson v. Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) Rail

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 6, 2017

BELINDA HINSON
v.
MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION (MTA) RAIL, et al.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this negligence case are (1) the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Maryland Transit Administration (“MTA”) and National Railroad Passenger Corporation (“Amtrak”) (collectively, “Defendants”) (ECF No. 63); (2) the motion to strike Plaintiff's response filed by Defendants (ECF No. 65); and (3) the motion to allow for late filing filed by Plaintiff Belinda Hinson (“Plaintiff”) (ECF No. 66). The issues have been fully briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion to strike will be denied, the motion to allow for late filing will be granted, and the motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         I. Background[1]

         On January 23, 2013, Plaintiff took a train operated by Defendants from Baltimore, Maryland, to New Carrolton, Maryland. For the ride, she sat on the second deck of the train. As the train approached New Carrolton, Plaintiff gathered her belongings. At New Carrolton, she waited for the train to stop and went to the stairs. Five seconds after the train initially stopped, the train suddenly moved and Plaintiff fell down the stairs. (ECF Nos. 2 ¶¶ 7-8; 64-2, at 3).

         Plaintiff filed suit in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland, on January 15, 2016. (ECF No. 2). Defendant Amtrak removed the case to federal court. (ECF No. 1). Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 63). Plaintiff responded 21 days later even though Local Rule 105.2.a requires a response be filed within fourteen days. (ECF No. 64). Defendants replied and moved to strike the response. (ECF No. 65). Plaintiff responded to the motion to strike and moved to allow the late filing. (ECF No. 66). Defendant replied. (ECF No. 67).

         II. Choice of Law & Jurisdiction

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” Congress established Defendant Amtrak as a corporation, and “[f]ederal question jurisdiction exists for congressionally incorporated corporations under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.” Aliotta v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 315 F.3d 756, 758 n.1 (7th Cir. 2003); In re Rail Collision Near Chase, Md. on Jan. 4, 1987 Litig., 680 F.Supp. 728, 730 (D.Md. 1987) (finding federal jurisdiction for Amtrak because of its Congressional charter).[2]Federal question jurisdiction exists because “[e]ven though state law creates [the] cause[] of action . . . [the] right to relief under state law requires resolution of a . . . question of federal law[.]” Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Tr. for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 13 (1983).

         In this situation, the district court applies the substantive law that creates the cause of action. Hollus v. Amtrak Ne. Corridor, 937 F.Supp. 1110, 1114 (D.N.J. 1996) (concluding that New Jersey substantive law applied to a tort action against Amtrak). Therefore, as this was a negligence suit brought under Maryland law, Maryland substantive law applies. Maryland law does not, however, govern procedural rules in this court.

         III. Motion for leave for late filing and Motion to Strike

         Plaintiff filed her response to Defendants' motion late. (ECF No. 64). Defendants moved to strike Plaintiff's late filing. (ECF No. 65). Plaintiff then moved to allow for the late filing. (ECF No. 66).

         Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(2) governs motions for enlargement of time sought after expiration of the specified time period. The rule provides a district court with discretion to order an extension even after the expiration of a specified time period, but only for “cause shown” and if the failure to act in a timely fashion is the result of “excusable neglect.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(2). The Supreme Court of the United States defined the meaning of excusable neglect in Pioneer Investment Services Co. v. Brunswick Associates Ltd. Partnership, 507 U.S. 380 (1993), a case dealing with late filings in bankruptcy proceedings. In defining neglect, the Supreme Court reasoned that courts could accept late filings due to inadvertence, mistake or carelessness, and intervening circumstances beyond a party's control. To ascertain whether a delay in filing is excusable, courts must consider “all relevant circumstances surrounding the party's omission.” Id. at 395.

         Here, Plaintiff avers that her delay in filing was due to a mistake about the timeline within which to file a response. (ECF No. 66). This mistake resulted in only a week delay, and Defendants have not alleged any prejudice. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion to allow for late filing will be granted, and Defendants' motion to strike will be denied.

         IV. Motion for Summary Judgment

         A. ...


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