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Arnold v. BNSF Railway Company

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

April 4, 2019

TRACY ARNOLD, as the Personal Representative of the Estate of DARIN W. ARNOLD, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY f/k/a Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SAM A. LINDSAY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court is Defendant's Motion for More Definite Statement and Motion for Lone Pine Order (Doc. 17), filed December 6, 2018. After considering the motions, response, reply, pleadings, and applicable law, the court denies Defendant's Motion for More Definite Statement, denies the Motion for Lone Pine Order, and denies Defendant's alternative request to file a “no-evidence” summary judgment motion at this early stage of the case (Doc. 17).

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Darin W. Arnold (the “Decedent”) died on July 30, 2018, after working for Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (“Defendant”) for 22 years. On behalf of the Decedent's estate, Tracy Arnold (“Plaintiff”), the Decedent's wife, sued Defendant for negligence under the Federal Employers Liability Act (“FELA”), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq., and violations of the Federal Locomotive Inspection Act (“LIA”), 49 U.S.C. § 20701, alleging that the Decedent's death was caused by his exposure to toxic substances and known carcinogens while working on the Defendant's railroad during his employment. Plaintiff alleges that the Decedent “worked out of [Defendant's] Cherokee Yard in Tulsa, OK[, ] from which he made runs to Ardmore, OK; Springfield, MO; Madill, OK[;] and [] Dallas, TX” and was also “temporarily based in the Dallas Yard.” Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $400, 000. Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 5.

         On December 6, 2018, Defendant moved for a more definite statement under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). Defendant also moved for entry of a Lone Pine order. Among other things, Defendant contends that Plaintiff has failed to identify the chemicals to which the Decedent was exposed, the location of his exposure, and the date of his initial exposure.[1] On December 26th, 2018, Plaintiff filed a response to both the motion for more definite statement and the motion for a Lone Pine order, to which Defendant replied on January 8, 2019, making the motions ripe for resolution.

         II. Motion for More Definite Statement

         A. Rule 8(a) and Rule 12(e) Legal Standard

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a pleading to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Rule 8 only requires “notice” pleading. Accordingly, it is not necessary that the pleader set forth each and every factual allegation supporting a claim. The “short and plain statement, ” however, must contain sufficient allegations of fact “that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Leatherman v. Tarrant Cty. Narcotics Intell. & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168 (1993) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A motion for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e) should be granted to clarify the complaint only when the complaint is so unintelligible that the court cannot “make out one or more potentially viable legal theories, ” and is “so vague or ambiguous that the opposing party cannot respond, even with a simple denial, in good faith or without prejudice to itself.” Sefton v. Jew, 204 F.R.D. 104, 106 (W.D. Tex. 2000). When a respondent complains of matters that could be answered via discovery, a motion for more definite statement is not warranted. Arista Records, LLC v. Greubel, 453 F.Supp.2d 961, 972 (N.D. Tex. 2006).

         B. Law Applicable to Claims Brought Under FELA and for LIA Violations

         As noted, Plaintiff asserts a claim under FELA for negligence and alleges that Defendant violated the LIA. “Under [the] FELA, an injured railroad employee may recover damages for ‘injury or death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence' of the railroad.” Huffman v. Union Pac. R.R., 675 F.3d 412, 416 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting 45 U.S.C. § 51). The FELA provides the exclusive remedy for a railroad employee engaged in interstate commerce who suffers an injury that is caused by a railroad employer's negligence. Id. (citation omitted). It requires a railroad to provide “a reasonably safe work environment for its employees.” Huffman , 675 F.3d at 417 (citing Urie v. Thompson, 337 U.S. 163, 179 n.16 (1949)). Thus, the question that arises in most FELA cases is “whether the railroad exercised reasonable care in creating a reasonably safe working environment.” Rivera v. Union Pac. R. Co., 378 F.3d 502, 507 (5th Cir. 2004). Negligence under the FELA “exists if the defendant railroad ‘knew, or by the exercise of due care should have known' that its conduct was ‘inadequate to protect [the plaintiff] and similarly situated employees.'” Huffman , 675 F.3d at 417 (quoting Urie, 337 U.S. at 178). A claim for negligence under the FELA requires factual allegations that support a “breach of [the] standard of care, causation, and damages.” Huffman, 675 F.3d at 419 (citing Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Gottshall, 512 U.S. 532, 540 (1994)). When “an injury has multiple causes, it is sufficient if the railroad's ‘negligence played a part-no matter how small-in bringing about the injury.'” Huffman, 675 F.3d at 419 (quoting CSX Transp., Inc. v. McBride, 564 U.S. 685, 698 (2011)).

         The LIA, formerly known as the Boiler Inspection Act, amended the FELA “substantively if not in form.” Urie, 337 U.S. at 189. The LIA is not a basis for liability; rather, it imposes an absolute and continuing duty on a railroad carrier to provide safe equipment. Danko v. Union Pac. R. Co., No. 405-CV-153-BE, 2007 WL 1854059, at *5 (N.D. Tex. June 28, 2007) (citing Urie, 337 U.S. at 188-89, which explained that a cause of action under the LIA is brought as an FELA action).

         The LIA provides:

A railroad carrier may use or allow to be used a locomotive or tender on its railroad line only when the locomotive or tender ...

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