CSX says water-runoff lawsuit preempted by federal law

By John O'Brien | Oct 24, 2013

LOGAN – CSX Transportation can’t be held accountable in state court for flooding a man’s property, it argues in a recently filed motion to dismiss.


LOGAN – CSX Transportation can’t be held accountable in state court for flooding a man’s property, it argues in a recently filed motion to dismiss.

The company on Sept. 3 asked Logan County Circuit Court Judge Eric O’Briant to dismiss a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Timothy Crumb, who is alleging his West Logan property was flooded as a result of CSX’s failure to control surface water runoff.

CSX points to a 2007 decision from the same judge in a similar case, and says that Crumb can’t bring a lawsuit alleging state law claims because they are preempted by federal law.

“The federal interest in precluding state regulation of the federal railway system through monetary claims is particularly strong where, as in the instant case, exemplary damages are sought to compel the railway company to conform to requirements prescribed by state common law,” the memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss says.

The Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 preempts claims concerning the design, construction, operation and maintenance of CSX’s railway facilities, the memorandum says.

Crumb’s lawsuit alleges gross negligence on the part of CSX. It says his property and business were flooded in spring 2012 and was filed by Charleston attorney D. Adrian Hoosier II.

In 2007, O’Briant dismissed a lawsuit filed by Patrick M. Hutchinson and others that alleged CSX designed, constructed and maintained various embankments, overpasses and bridges that caused surface waters to flow onto their properties.

“The Court believes and finds that the allegations set forth in the Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint against CSX are related to the ‘construction’ and ‘operations’ of ‘tracks’ and ‘facilities’ as contemplated by the ICCTA in that the Plaintiffs allege that the CSX bridge at Monaville was negligently designed, constructed, and/or maintained,” O’Briant wrote.

“The Court believes and finds that the relief requested by the Plaintiffs in this action qualifies as a state ‘regulation’ as contemplated by the ICCTA.

“The Court believes and finds that the plain language of the ICCTA is a clear declaration of Congress’s intent to expressly preempt state law as it relates to CSX in the present action and bestow upon the Safety Transportation Board exclusive jurisdiction in such an action.”

CSX is represented by Andrew S. Zettle and Luke A. Laffere of Huddleston Bolen in Huntington.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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