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Dickerson v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

February 10, 2014

LITTIE DICKERSON and WADE JONES, Co-Administrators of the Estate of CARL JONES, Plaintiffs,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH H. McKINLEY, Jr., Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc.'s ("CSXT") Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [DN 54]. Also before the Court is Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc.'s Motion to Exclude Testimony of Archie Burnham, Jr. [DN 56] and Plaintiffs' Motion to Exclude Portions of Testimony of Forrest Ballinger [DN 55]. Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision.

I. BACKGROUND

This action arises out of a fatal collision involving a CSXT train and a 2008 Chevrolet Impala being driven by Carl Jones. The accident occurred on January 13, 2009, shortly before 7 p.m., as Mr. Jones attempted to cross the railroad tracks at Memphis Junction Road, in Warren County, Kentucky. The Memphis Junction Road crossing is equipped with a post-mounted "RAILROAD CROSSING" (cross bucks) signs and train traffic activated, post-mounted automatic flashing lights. At the time Mr. Jones crossed the train tracks, the post-mounted automatic flashing lights were activated.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Summary Judgment

Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and identifying that portion of the record that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party thereafter must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the non-moving party must do more than merely show that there is some "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the nonmoving party to present specific facts showing that a genuine factual issue exists by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence... of a genuine dispute[.]" Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson , 477 U.S. at 252. It is against this standard the Court reviews the following facts.

B. Daubert Standard

Both parties in this case seek to exclude a portion of the other parties expert testimony by alleging in part that their testimony does not meet the standards of Fed.R.Evid. 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. , 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Rule 702 provides:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if: (a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue; (b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; (c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Under Rule 702, the trial judge acts as a gatekeeper to ensure that expert evidence is both reliable and relevant. Mike's Train House, Inc. v. Lionel, L.L.C. , 472 F.3d 398, 407 (6th Cir. 2006) (citing Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael , 526 U.S. 137 (1999)). In determining whether testimony is reliable, the Court's focus "must be solely on principles and methodology, not on the conclusions that they generate." Daubert , 509 U.S. at 595. The Supreme Court identified a non-exhaustive list of factors that may help the Court in assessing the reliability of a proposed expert's opinion. These factors include: (1) whether a theory or technique can be or has been tested; (2) whether the theory has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) whether the technique has a known or potential rate of error; and (4) whether the theory or technique enjoys "general acceptance" within a "relevant scientific community." Id. at 592-94. This gatekeeping role is not limited to expert testimony based on scientific knowledge, but instead extends to "all scientific, ' technical, ' or other specialized' matters" within the scope of Rule 702. Kumho Tire Co. , 526 U.S. at 147.

Whether the Court applies these factors to assess the reliability of an expert's testimony "depend[s] on the nature of the issue, the expert's particular expertise, and the subject of his testimony." Kumho Tire Co. , 526 U.S. at 150 (quotation omitted). Any weakness in the underlying factual basis bears on the weight, as opposed to admissibility, of the evidence. In re Scrap Metal Antitrust Litig. , 527 F.3d 517, 530 (6th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant moves for partial summary judgment on two of Plaintiffs' claims: (1) "insufficient or inadequate warning devices" and (2) "negligent operation due to excessive train speed." [Mem., DN 54-1, at 1]. First, as to Plaintiffs' claim based on inadequate warning devices, specifically a lack of gates at the crossing, Defendant contends that any state law claim on this basis is preempted by federal law. Plaintiff argues that a 2007 amendment to the governing federal statute now provides a right for private parties to assert a cause of action under state law for inadequate warning devices. Second, Defendant contends that ...


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