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BNSF Railway Co. v. Box

January 18, 2007

BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CHARLES E. BOX, LULA M. FORD, ROBERT F. LIEBERMAN, ERIN M. O'CONNELL-DIAZ, AND KEVIN K. WRIGHT, IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS COMMISSIONERS OF THE ILLINOIS COMMERCE COMMISSION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, District Judge

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment. See Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 20) (Plaintiffs' Motion); Defendant's [sic] Combined Response to Plaintiff's [sic] Motion for Summary Judgment and Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 22) (Defendants' Motion). Plaintiffs bring this action against Defendants Charles E. Box, Lula M. Ford, Robert F. Lieberman, Erin M. O'Connell-Diaz, and Kevin K. Wright, all of whom are Commissioners of the Illinois Commerce Commission (collectively the Commissioners), alleging that the Illinois Railroad Employees Medical Treatment Act (IREMTA), 601 ILCS 107/1-10, is preempted by the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970 (FRSA), as amended 49 U.S.C. §§ 20101-53. The Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief. Specifically, the Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction barring enforcement of the IREMTA and a declaration that the IREMTA is preempted by the FRSA. The Defendants are sued in their official capacities. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment is ALLOWED, and the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are freight or passenger railroad carriers operating in Illinois.*fn1 BNSF Railway Company is a freight railroad carrier engaged in interstate or foreign commerce within the meaning of the FRSA, operating in Illinois. Plaintiff Soo Line Railroad Company, d/b/a Canadian Pacific Railway, is a freight railroad carrier engaged in interstate or foreign commerce within the meaning of the FRSA, maintaining approximately 450 employees in its Illinois operations. Plaintiff CSX Transportation, Inc., is a freight railroad carrier engaged in interstate or foreign commerce within the meaning of the FRSA, maintaining approximately 1,000 employees in its Illinois operations. Plaintiff Illinois Central Railroad Company is a freight railroad carrier engaged in interstate or foreign commerce within the meaning of the FRSA, with 1,548 employees in its Illinois operations. Plaintiff The Kansas City Southern Railway Company is a freight railroad carrier engaged in interstate or foreign commerce within the meaning of the FRSA, with approximately 85 employees in its Illinois operations. Plaintiff National Railroad Passenger Corporation, d/b/a Amtrak, is a passenger railroad carrier engaged in interstate or foreign commerce within the meaning of the FRSA, with approximately 1,614 employees in its Illinois operations. Plaintiff Norfolk Southern Railway Company is a freight railroad carrier engaged in interstate or foreign commerce within the meaning of the FRSA, maintaining approximately 1,701 employees in its Illinois operations. Plaintiff Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway is a freight railroad carrier engaged in interstate or foreign commerce within the meaning of the FRSA, with approximately 42 employees in its Illinois operations. Plaintiff Union Pacific Railroad Company is a freight railroad carrier engaged in interstate or foreign commerce within the meaning of the FRSA, with approximately 4,011 employees in its Illinois operations.

The Defendants are Commissioners of the Illinois Commerce Commission (the Commission), a quasi-judicial Illinois administrative agency created by Article II of the Illinois Public Utilities Act, 200 ILCS 5/2-101, et seq. The Commission derives its power to regulate certain activities of rail carriers operating within the State of Illinois, including the Plaintiffs, from the Illinois Commercial Transportation Law, 625 ILCS5-18c-1101, et seq. Each Defendant is sued in his or her official capacity as a Commissioner.*fn2

A. Statutory Background

1. Federal Railroad Safety Act

Congress enacted the FRSA of 1970 for the purpose of "promot[ing] safety in every area of railroad operations and reduc[ing] railroad-related accidents and incidents." 49 U.S.C. § 20101.*fn3 "The FRSA was enacted under Congress' constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce with the intent of providing uniform national regulation of railroad operations." Michigan Southern Railroad Company v. City of Kendallville, 251 F.3d 1152, 1154 (7th Cir. 2001). This congressional intent is evidenced in the legislative history of the FRSA. "The House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, to whom the bill was referred, concluded in its report that safety in the nation's railroads would not be advanced by subjecting the national rail system to a variety of enforcement and conflicting requirements in 50 different jurisdictions." National Association of Regulatory Utilities Commissioners v. Coleman, 542 F.2d 11, 13-14 (3d Cir. 1976) (citing 1970 U.S. Code Cong. & Admin News, p. 4109)). Under the FRSA, the Secretary of Transportation is authorized to promulgate and issue regulations and orders for every area of railroad safety. Id. (citing 49 U.S. C. § 20103(a)). In exercising this authority vested under the FRSA, the Secretary has delegated to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) the authority to prescribe regulations and issue orders pertaining to railroad safety. Union Pacific Railroad Company v. California Public Utilities Commission, 346 F.3d 851, 858 (9th Cir. 2003).

Section 20106 of the FRSA provides that: "Laws, regulations, and orders related to railroad safety and laws, regulations, and orders related to railroad security shall be nationally uniform to the extent practicable." 49 U.S.C. § 20106.*fn4 There are two exceptions to this general rule: (1) A State may adopt or continue in force a law, regulation, or order related to railroad safety or security until the Secretary of Transportation (with respect to railroad safety matters), or the Secretary of Homeland Security (with respect to railroad security matters), prescribes a regulation or issues an order covering the subject matter of the State requirement; and (2) A State may adopt or continue in force an additional or more stringent law, regulation, or order related to railroad safety or security when the law, regulation, or order -- [(a)] is necessary to eliminate or reduce an essentially local safety or security hazard; [(b)] is not incompatible with a law, regulation, or order of the United States Government; and [(c)] does not unreasonably burden interstate commerce. Id. (quotations omitted).

In carrying out its duties, the FRA has promulgated numerous regulations pertaining to railroad safety, one of which is 49 C.F.R. 225.33. This regulation mandates railroads adopt an internal control plan that includes a policy statement indicating that harassment or intimidation of any person that is calculated to discourage or prevent such person from receiving medical treatment or from reporting such accident or injury (harassment/intimidation policy) is prohibited.*fn5 The FRA has stated that the purpose of regulations in part 225 "is to provide the Federal Railroad Administration with accurate information concerning the hazards and risks that exist on the Nation's railroads." 49 C.F. R. § 225.1. Further, under the FRSA, a civil monetary penalty of $2,500.00 is assessed against any railroad employees or the railroads themselves that violate the harassment/intimidation policy set forth in § 225.33. A civil monetary penalty of $5,000.00 is imposed for a willful violation. 49 C.F.R. Pt. 225, App. A.

2. Illinois Railroad Employees Medical Treatment Act

On May 28, 2005, the Illinois General Assembly enacted the IREMTA at issue in this case. The IREMTA became effective on January 1, 2006. The enactment of IREMTA addresses Illinois' concern that the railroad employees injured in the course of employment are not afforded prompt medical treatment due to employer interference. The IREMTA mandates the railroads to make a good faith effort to provide prompt medical attention or treatment for a railroad employee injured in the course of employment. The IREMTA further states that it is unlawful for railroads and their employees to deny, delay, or interfere with medical treatment of employees injured on the job, or discipline or threaten discipline to an employee injured on the job for seeking medical treatment or for following the orders or treatment plan of his or her treating physician. The IREMTA is enforced through civil penalties. The IREMTA authorizes the imposition of a civil monetary penalty of up to $10,000.00 for each violation.*fn6

The Bill's chief sponsor and others advocating the passage of IREMTA noted that the primary purpose of the statute was to ensure prompt medical attention to railroad employees injured in the course of their employment, without any employer interference. In strongly supporting the passage of the statute, Illinois State Representative Lang stated the following during a debate in the Illinois General Assembly regarding the need for the statute:

Apparently, there are file folders filled with complaints from railroad workers about delay in treatment for injuries and lack of management dealing with these problems in an appropriate way. I think if any of us were injured on this job or any other job we have, we'd wanna to [sic] make sure that we got attended to immediately. . . . The simple message [of this Bill] is that when you're injured on the job and your employer knows about it your employer shouldn't stand in the way of having your injuries treated. That's all this Bill is about.

Plaintiffs' Motion, Exh. E., State of Illinois, 94th General Assembly, House of Representatives, Transcription Debate (April 13, 2005), at 157.

ANALYSIS

The parties move for summary judgment. Plaintiffs ask for summary judgment, asserting that the IREMTA has been preempted by the FRSA and its regulation, namely 49 C.F.R. § 225.33. The Defendants likewise move for summary judgment, contending that: (1) the issue presented in this case (whether IREMTA has been preempted by the FRSA) is not ripe for judicial resolution; (2) the Plaintiffs lack standing to bring this lawsuit; (3) FRSA and § 225.33 do not preempt the IREMTA because the FRA was not authorized under the FRSA of 1994 to issue the regulation and so § 225.33 is "ultra vires" and "void ab initio"; and (4) Section 225.33 does not cover the subject matter addressed by IREMTA because the regulation does not substantially subsume the subject matter of the state law.

At summary judgment, the moving party must present evidence that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). The Court must consider the evidence presented in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial must be resolved against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Once the moving party has met his or her burden, the non-moving party must present evidence to show that issues of fact remain with respect to an issue essential to his or her case, and on which he or she will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

A. Defendants' Challenges to the Plaintiffs' Exhibits

Before turning to the parties' Motions for Summary Judgment, the Court first addresses Defendants' challenges ...


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