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Chessie Logistics Co. LLC v. Krinos Holdings Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 2, 2016

CHESSIE LOGISTICS COMPANY LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
KRINOS HOLDINGS, INC., KRINOS FOODS LLC, KRINOS REALTY LLC, and 4545 JAMES PLACE REALTY, LLC, Defendants. 4545 JAMES PLACE REALTY, LLC, Counterplaintiff,
v.
CHESSIE LOGISTICS COMPANY LLC, Counterdefendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JORGE L. ALONSO United States District Judge.

         Before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims and plaintiff/counterdefendant's motion to supplement its exhibits. For the following reasons, defendants'/counterplaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is granted; plaintiff/counterdefendant's motion for summary judgment is denied; and plaintiff/ counterdefendant's motion to supplement its exhibits is denied as moot.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff/counterdefendant, Chessie Logistics Company LLC (“Chessie” or “plaintiff”), brings this action for trespass, negligence, and violation of 49 U.S.C. § 10903 against defendants, 4545 James Place Realty, LLC (“4545 James Place”); Krinos Holdings, Inc.; Krinos Foods LLC; and Krinos Realty LLC (the “Krinos Entities” or “defendants”). Chessie is a common carrier by railroad that claims to own in fee simple lead railroad tracks (the “Lead Tracks”) in an industrial park in Melrose Park, Illinois that are adjacent to, as well as easements for the use of switches and spur tracks (the “Spur Tracks”)[1] that cross over, property owned by 4545 James Place where one or more of the Krinos Entities operate an industrial facility (the “4545 Property”). Chessie alleges that defendants trespassed on, and negligently damaged, the Spur Tracks “by performing construction work to install sewer tiles onto the Spur Track drainage ditch and placing landfill on top of” the Spur Tracks. (ECF No. 162, Pl.'s Resp. Defs.' LR 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 69-70.) Chessie further alleges that defendants' activities “created a slope on top of” the Spur Tracks, “which caused the landfill to encroach onto” the Lead Tracks, and that defendants later did more damage to the Lead Tracks by using heavy equipment to remove landfill. (Id.; ECF No. 165, Pl.'s Mem. at 10.) Chessie seeks $618, 442 in damages for what it says would be the cost of removing the landfill and repairing the damage to the tracks and roadbed. (ECF No. 165-2, Pl.'s Ex. 16, Expert Report of Thomas E. Scott Jr. at 6, 29.)

         4545 James Place filed a counterclaim for declaratory judgment and ejectment and to quiet title, asserting that Chessie was never granted the easements over its land or, in the alternative, Chessie abandoned them.[2]

         The Court previously dismissed with prejudice Chessie's claim for violation of 49 U.S.C. § 10903, leaving the trespass and negligence claims. Defendants move for summary judgment on both claims, and Chessie cross-moves for summary judgment.[3]

         DISCUSSION

         A. Summary Judgment

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court must construe the evidence and all inferences that reasonably can be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Kvapil v. Chippewa Cty., 752 F.3d 708, 712 (7th Cir. 2014); McKinney v. Cadleway Props., Inc., 548 F.3d 496, 499-500 (7th Cir. 2008). “A factual dispute is ‘genuine' only if a reasonable jury could find for either party.” Nichols v. Mich. City Plant Planning Dep't, 755 F.3d 594, 599 (7th Cir. 2014) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “‘[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute' will not defeat summary judgment.” Bordelon v. Bd. of Educ., 811 F.3d 984, 989 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)).

         On cross-motions for summary judgment, the court considers “the burden of proof that each party would bear on an issue of trial” and then “require[s] that party to go beyond the pleadings and affirmatively to establish a genuine issue of material fact.” Santaella v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 123 F.3d 456, 461 (7th Cir. 1997). For each motion, factual inferences are viewed in the nonmovant's favor. Hotel 71 Mezz Lender LLC v. Nat'l Ret. Fund, 778 F.3d 593, 603 (7th Cir. 2015). Cross-motions for summary judgment “must be evaluated together, and the court may not grant summary judgment for either side unless the admissible evidence as a whole-from both motions-establishes that no material facts are in dispute.” Bloodworth v. Vill. of Greendale, 475 F. App'x 92, 95 (7th Cir. 2012).

         1. Trespass (Count I)

         “To prevail on a trespass claim under Illinois law, a plaintiff must plead and prove negligent or intentional conduct by the defendant which resulted in an intrusion on the plaintiff's interest in exclusive possession of land.” Sak v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 940 F.Supp.2d 802, 804 (N.D. Ill. 2013) (citing Porter v. Urbana-Champaign Sanitary Dist., 604 N.E.2d 393, 398 (Ill.App.Ct. 1992) (citing Dial v. City of O'Fallon, 411 N.E.2d 217, 222 (Ill. 1980))). Chessie contends that defendants interfered with its Lead Tracks on land that it owns in fee simple as well as easement rights over the 4545 Property for the “construction, operation, maintenance, repair, and use of” switches and spur track. (Pl.'s Mem. at 2.)[4] The parties do not dispute that Chessie owns the Lead Tracks and underlying real property, but they do dispute whether Chessie owns easement rights over the 4545 Property.

         a. Chessie's Easement Rights

         “An easement is a right or privilege in the real estate of another.” McMahon v. Hines, 697 N.E.2d 1199, 1203 (Ill.App.Ct. 1998). “The user of the right of the easement enjoys what is referred to as a dominant estate over the used land, which is the servient estate.” Id. “In the context of easements, trespass occurs when there is a material interference with the right of the owner of the dominant estate to reasonable use of the easement.” Chi. Title Land Trust Co. v. JS II, LLC, 977 N.E.2d 198, 218 (Ill.App.Ct. 2012). “To acquire an easement by grant, no particular words are necessary, but the words that are used must clearly show an intention by the grantor to confer an easement, and such terms must be definite, certain, and unequivocal.” McMahon, 697 N.E.2d at 1203. “A court interprets an easement in the same manner it would interpret any agreement between parties. Generally, an instrument creating an easement is construed in accordance with the intention of the parties, which is ascertained from the words of the instrument and the circumstances contemporaneous to the transaction, including the state of the thing conveyed and the objective to be obtained. However, if the language of an agreement is facially unambiguous, then the trial court interprets the contract as a matter of law without the use of extrinsic evidence.” River's Edge Homeowners' Ass'n v. City of Naperville, 819 N.E.2d 806, 809 (Ill.App.Ct. 2004); 527 S. Clinton, LLC v. Westloop Equities, LLC, 7 N.E.3d 756, 765 (Ill.App.Ct. 2014).

         It is Chessie's burden to demonstrate that it owns easement rights over the 4545 Property. Chessie contends that J. Emil Anderson & Son, Inc. (“JEAS”) conveyed these rights to it by quitclaim deed. The quitclaim deed, dated July 23, 2013, provides as follows:

THE GRANTOR, J. EMIL ANDERSON & SONS [sic], INC., . . . for and in consideration of Ten and No/100 DOLLARS ($10.00), and other good and valuable consideration, . . . CONVEYS and QUIT CLAIMS to CHESSIE LOGISTICS CO., LLC, . . . all of the Grantor's rights and interest in the Premises described on E ...

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