Charles E. Ross and D. Jason Childress recently prevailed on a motion for summary judgment in favor of a railroad company in a lawsuit brought by a motorist who collided with a stationary train at a public grade crossing in West Point, Mississippi.

KCSR argued, and U.S. District Court Judge Sharion Aycock agreed, that:

  1. Plaintiff’s claim that the railroad was negligent for blocking the crossing was preempted by the ICC Termination Act of 1995, 49 U.S.C. Section 10101, et seq. (the “ICCTA”). The ICCTA likewise preempts Mississippi’s anti-blocking statute (MCA Section 77-9-235), which purports to limit the amount of time for which a train may occupy a crossing. Under the ICCTA, such regulation may not be imposed on railroads on an ad hoc state-by-state basis;
  2. Plaintiff’s claim that the railroad provided him inadequate warning of the train’s presence on the crossing was precluded by Mississippi’s “occupied crossing doctrine.” Under the occupied crossing doctrine, where a train occupies a public crossing, the presence of the train itself is ordinarily all the warning to which the traveling public is entitled. Judge Aycock held Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the conditions on the night of his accident warranted his case being excepted from the general rule; and
  3. Plaintiff’s claim that the railroad put the train in motion without proper warning was barred for lack of evidence of any particular injury or damage caused by the train’s movement. As Judge Aycock recognized, Plaintiff failed to put forth evidence of injury caused by the train’s movement (which occurred after the collision as the crew was not aware the collision occurred) distinct from injury caused by the collision itself.

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