United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
CHRISTINE M. JONES, individually and SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF TIMOTHY JONES, Plaintiff,
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.
Elizabeth A. Graham, Union Pacific Railroad Company, Thomas
E. Jones, Thompson Coburn LLP Attorneys for Union Pacific
DEFENDANT UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY'S MOTION
FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW
to Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Defendant
Union Pacific Railroad Company (“Union Pacific”)
respectfully moves for judgment as a matter of law.
has failed to meet her burden to establish that Union Pacific
did anything to cause or contribute to cause the death of
Timothy Jones (Jones). To the contrary, the facts establish
that Jones' death was the result of his own conduct, and
not that of Union Pacific or its employee, Steven Pignato
(Pignato). Union Pacific requests that this Court grant is
motion for judgment as a matter of law because (1) Jones'
conduct was the sole cause of this accident, (2) Jones was
contributorily negligent, (3) there is no evidence that Union
Pacific had any notice of a problem with the crossing warning
system before the accident occurred, and (4) there is
insufficient evidence to establish that Pignato operated the
Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a)(1) provides as follows:
If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury
trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not
have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the
party on that issue, the court may:
(A) resolve the issue against the party; and
(B) grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against
the party on a claim or defense that, under the controlling
law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable
finding on that issue.
50(a)(1). In other words, the evidence must provide a
sufficient basis from which the jury could reasonably reach a
verdict “without speculation or drawing unreasonable
inferences which conflict with the undisputed facts.”
Maltby v. Winston, 36 F.3d 548, 558 (7th Cir. 1994).
No such evidence has been presented against Union Pacific.
PLAINTIFF HAS ESTABLISHED THAT JONES'CONDUCT WAS THE SOLE
CAUSE OF THIS ACCIDENT.
parties in this case agreed to certain facts that were
presented to the jury as uncontested. Dkt. No. 220 (Final
Pretrial Order). Included in those facts is that when Jones
was in the left turn late at River and Miner “the
traffic control light was red and the three no left turn
signals were activated, prohibiting a left hand turn.”
Id. In addition, the parties agree that although
“[t]he three no left turn signals remained illuminated
even after the traffic signal light allowing for thru traffic
turned green[, ] Mr. Jones made a left hand turn and
proceeded into the railroad crossing.” Id.
This evidence undisputedly establishes that Jones'
accident was caused by his failure to obey the traffic
signals at the River Road Crossing (the Crossing). By making
a left turn, Jones disobeyed the law and put himself in the
path of the train. The no left turn signals were not an
invitation for Jones to make the left turn and stop before
the tracks-he was required to comply with the law and remain
in the left turn lane until given permission to enter the
crossing. Simply put, there is no question that if Jones had
obeyed the no left turn signals, and remained stopped in the
left turn lane, this accident would not have occurred.
proximate cause is typically a question of fact, “it
becomes a question of law where the undisputed facts are such
that no reasonable person could infer that a defendant's
acts were the cause of a plaintiff's injuries.”
Sheahan v. Ne. Ill. Reg'l Commuter R.R. Corp.,
212 Ill.App.3d 732, 737, 571 N.E.2d 796, 799 (1st Dist.
1991). Where a decedent fails to heed the active warning
signals that were ...