RAILROADS (FELA & FEDERAL RAIL SAFETY ACT) / Where (1) plaintiff in Federal Employers Liability Act claim against railroad alleged negligence based on railroad’s failure to inspect a particular switch more often than once per month, and (2) Federal Rail Safety Act prescribed inspections of specified railroad switches at specified frequencies under specified circumstances of a minimum of once per month – Held: Federal Rail Safety Act standard did NOT preempt as a matter of law a higher negligence standard to be applied under Federal Employers Liability Act.

The district court’s basic rationale: FELA is based on negligence concepts for the protection of railroad employees, and FRSA – it reasoned – was not enacted with the idea of preempting such negligence standards with a distinct federal statutory standard.  “Finding preclusion as between these two statues would thus be tantamount to concluding that with the FRSA Congress intended to reconfigure the basic structure for imposing liability under the FELA.”

Powell v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, No. Civ. 2:09-01857 (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, May 2, 2013). Free copy available here.

AVIATION / Passenger claims against airline for negligence and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing preempted by Airline Deregulation Act of 1978; contract claim not preempted.

Airline passenger plaintiff unsuccessfully seeks recovery against airline for negligence and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing because federal preemption bars those claims in these circumstances.

Benedetto v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., Slip copy, 2013 WL 100055 (U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, January 7, 2013). Free copy available here.

On federal preemption of negligence and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, two key points in the court’s holdings: Continue reading

RAILROAD / Wrongful death action against Class I railroad for collision at railroad crossing properly pleaded under state’s negligence law principles – not subject to federal preemption.

Wrongful death action pleading various negligence claims in lawsuit for railroad equipment collision with truck of plaintiff’s decedent at rail crossing. Jury verdict for plaintiff. This is the court’s opinion accompanying an order denying defendant BNSF’s motion to overturn the jury verdict (motion for judgment as a matter of law or in the alternative for a new trial).

Skrovig v. BNSF Railway Co., 2013 WL 175466 (United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, January 16, 2013). No free copy available at time of posting.

Chief Judge Viken held that principles of South Dakota law of negligence governed the plaintiff’s claims against the BNSF and that the court upheld its earlier issuance of jury instructions consistent with that view of the law.    Continue reading