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Johnson v. Decatur Junction Railway, Co.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

March 28, 2014

SHERYL JOHNSON, Administrator of the Estate of Chris Johnson, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
DECATUR JUNCTION RAILWAY, CO., Defendant.

OPINION

THOMAS P. SCHANZLE-HASKINS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Alter April 13, 2012 Stipulation & Order and for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (d/e 33) (Motion). The parties consented to have this case heard before this Court. Notice, Consent and Reference of a Civil Action to a Magistrate Judge and Reference Order entered March 24, 2014 (d/e 61). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is ALLOWED in part and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND

On November 2, 2011, Chris Johnson filed this action against Defendant Decatur Junction Railway, Co. (DJR), and former Defendant Pioneer Railcorp, Inc. Complaint (d/e 1). On February 2, 2012, Chris Johnson filed an Amended Complaint substituting Pioneer Railroad Services, Inc. (Pioneer Services), for Pioneer Railcorp, Inc., as the second Defendant. Amended Complaint (d/e 7). Chris Johnson alleged a claim under the Federal Employer's Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51 (FELA). Chris Johnson alleged that he was injured while he was repairing a railroad locomotive engine operated by DJR on September 23, 2010. The injury resulted in a loss of his hearing. Johnson alleged that he was employed by Pioneer Services "and/or" DJR. Amended Complaint, ¶ 7.

On March 6, 2012, Pioneer Services filed Defendant Pioneer Railroad Services, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (d/e 10) (Motion to Dismiss). Pioneer Services moved to dismiss because it was not authorized by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to be a common carrier railroad. FELA imposes liability on common carriers by rail engaged in commerce. 45 U.S.C. § 51. No person may operate a railroad unless authorized to do so by the STB. See 49 U.S.C. § 10901. Pioneer Services stated that it has not been authorized by the STB to operate a railroad and, as such, is not a common carrier. Thus, Pioneer Services is not subject to FELA liability. Motion to Dismiss, at 1-2.

Chris Johnson never responded to the Motion to Dismiss. Rather, Johnson, DJR, and Pioneer Services entered into a stipulation that states the following:

Now comes, the plaintiff, Chris Johnson, by his attorney, Ryan S. McCracken, defendant, Pioneer Railroad Services, Inc. by its attorney, Daniel A. LaKemper, and defendant Decatur Junction Railway Co., by its attorney, James E. Lozier, and for the parties (sic) stipulation of dismissal state:
1. Decatur Junction Railway Co. is a railroad company operating in interstate commerce.
2. Decatur Junction Railway Co. was acting as Chris Johnson's employer for Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) purposes on September 23, 2010.
3. Pioneer Railroad Services, Inc. was not a FELA employer of Chris Johnson on September 23, 2010. WHEREFORE, the parties pray for the Court to enter an Order dismissing Pioneer Railroad Services, Inc. as a defendant.

Stipulation of Dismissal of Defendant Pioneer Railroad Services, Inc. (d/e 15) (Stipulation). Based on the Stipulation, the Court dismissed the claims against Pioneer Services with prejudice and denied the Motion to Dismiss as moot. Text Order entered April 13, 2012. Chris Johnson subsequently died and Sheryl Johnson was substituted in as Administrator of his estate. Text Order entered July 30, 2013.

Sheryl Johnson now asks to withdraw from paragraph 3 of the Stipulation. She states that she has learned through discovery that Pioneer Services may have been Chris Johnson's employer when he was injured at work on September 23, 2010. Motion, at 3-4. Pioneer Services opposes the Motion.

Sheryl Johnson also seeks to amend the Amended Complaint to add claims that, "the hearing loss was a cause of depression and acute and chronic alcoholism which lead to Chris Johnson's death from multiple organ failure due to acute and chronic alcoholism or (sic) three years duration." Motion, ¶ 3. DJR has not responded to this aspect of the Motion, and so, is deemed to have no opposition. Local ...


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