FEDERAL QUESTION JURISDICTION / No federal question jurisdiction based on complaint for simple contract claim; counterclaims based on 49 U.S.C. did not create federal question.

Only what is within the four corners of the complaint — not defenses or counterclaims — can create federal question jurisdiction of a case or controversy.¬†

American Fast Freight, Inc. v. R & R Exp., Inc., Slip copy, 2013 WL 64771 (U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, January 4, 2013). Free copy available here. Continue reading

CASE STUDY: RAILROAD & TORTS / Plaintiff’s tort lawyers needed to better understand federal railroad statutes; railroad defense lawyers should have been more forthcoming with judge about law.

Not all lawyers who encounter transportation law understand it, and those who do understand it sometimes try to bamboozle those who do not. In a wrongful death case arising out of an auto-and-locomotive collision at a grade crossing, ¬†plaintiff’s tort lawyers appear caught off guard by defendant railroad lawyers’ invalid arguments about the implications of two longstanding federal statutes. And a careful federal judge calls the railroad lawyers’ bluff, and in so doing schools the plaintiff’s tort lawyers on the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 and the Federal Railway Safety Act.

Rawls v. Union Pacific Railroad, July 10, 2012, U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas, 2012 WL 2803764. Free copy of case available here.

17 years after passage of the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 courts still have to hand down decisions on an issue of transportation law so basic that in other fields of law no one would even have to argue about it. Continue reading