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Chiriboga v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.

September 3, 2009

JOHN CHIRIBOGA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF JOYCE CHIRIBOGA, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, NORTHEAST ILLINOIS REGIONAL COMMUTER RAILROAD CORPORATION, AND SOO LINE RAILROAD COMPANY, D/B/A CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on the motions of Defendants National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak"), Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation ("Metra"), and Soo Line Railroad Company ("Canadian Pacific") to dismiss the claims of Defendant John Chiriboga ("Chiriboga"), administrator of the estate of Joyce Chiriboga ("Joyce"), for failure to state a claim. For the reasons set forth below, Canadian Pacific and Metra's motions are granted; Amtrak's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Metra is the owner and operator of a railroad right-of-way referred to as the Milwaukee District Line. The right-of-way runs through northeastern Illinois and contains two mainline railroad tracks at grade level as well as stations adjacent to the tracks. One station on the line is located in a Chicago neighborhood known as Edgebrook, at the intersection of Devon, Lehigh, and Caldwell Avenues. The station at Edgebrook has platforms on either side of the tracks from which passengers board trains. A pedestrian crosswalk traverses the tracks between the two platforms to permit passengers to walk from one platform to the other.

Canadian Pacific controls rail traffic on the Milwaukee District Line for Metra and Amtrak. In that process, a system is employed that uses block signal indications to authorize train movement. The block signals allow Canadian Pacific to track the location of trains being monitored at any given time. According to the complaint, information about what trains are using what blocks is not communicated to Metra headquarters, so communication to passengers and invitees at Metra's stations is not afforded.

On Saturdays, Metra operates a northbound train out of Chicago that makes a scheduled stop at Edgebrook station at 7 pm. Amtrak operates a southbound train from Milwaukee to Chicago. Though the Amtrak train uses the tracks that run through the Edgebrook station, it does not stop at Edgebrook. When the train is on schedule, it passes through Edgebrook at approximately 6:53 pm. On November 8, 2008, however, the Amtrak train was about six minutes behind schedule, bringing it into the station at almost the same time as the scheduled Metra train. According to the complaint, the Amtrak train approached and entered the station at a speed of approximately 79 miles per hour. The Amtrak train was equipped with a horn and a bell; the complaint alleges that the bell sounded as the train approached but that the horn did not.

That night, Joyce had traveled to the station with her sister, Diane Moss, who was planning to board the 7 pm train. The two women entered the station on the opposite side of the tracks from where Moss would need to board the northbound train. In order to be on the correct platform, they needed to cross the tracks via the pedestrian crosswalk. As Joyce was crossing the tracks, the Amtrak train struck and killed her.

On December 22, Chiriboga filed the instant suit in our court.*fn1 Count I of the four-count complaint asserts a claim for wrongful death against Metra, alleging that it engaged in willful and wanton misconduct. Count II is a negligence claim against Metra. Count III asserts that Amtrak is liable for negligence. Count IV asserts a negligence claim against Canadian Pacific. Each defendant now moves to dismiss the claim or claims against it pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

LEGAL STANDARD

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) evaluates the legal sufficiency of a plaintiff's complaint. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff, construe all allegations of a complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the complaint. Bontkowski v. First Nat'l Bank of Cicero, 998 F.2d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1993); Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). To state a claim on which relief can be granted, a plaintiff must satisfy two conditions: first, the complaint must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests; and second, its allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a speculative level. EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, - U.S. -, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007). The court will apply the notice-pleading standard on a case-by-case basis to evaluate whether recovery is plausible. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008).

With these principles in mind, we turn to Defendants' motions.

DISCUSSION

A. Negligence Claims

Three of the four challenged claims sound in negligence. In Illinois, a negligence claim contains four elements: the existence of a duty, a breach of that duty, injury to the plaintiff, and proximate causation of the injury by the defendant's breach. See Gouge v. Central Illinois Pub. Serv., 582 N.E.2d 108, 111 (Ill. 1991). Duties can arise from common law, statute, ordinance, or regulation. See, e.g., Bartelli v. O'Brien, 718 N.E.2d 344, 355 (Ill. App. Ct. 1999). In addition, a duty exists when a defendant stands in relationship to a plaintiff such that ...


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