United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
RONALD C. PERKINS, JR. PLAINTIFF
KIAMICHI RAILROAD COMPANY, LLC, and JOHN DOES 1-5 DEFENDANTS
O. Hickey United States District Judge.
the Court is Defendant Kiamichi Railroad Company's
(“Kiamichi”) Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No.
24. Plaintiff has filed a response. ECF No. 31. Defendant
Kiamichi has filed a reply. ECF No. 35. The Court finds this
matter ripe for consideration.
case concerns the death of Plaintiff's wife, Velma Marie
Perkins (the “Decedent”). Plaintiff sues
personally and on behalf of the Decedent's estate. ECF
No. 3. The Decedent sustained injuries and damages while an
employee of Domtar, Inc., (“Domtar”) as the
result of an industrial accident on September 15, 2015. ECF
No. 3, ¶ 5. At the time of the accident, the Decedent
was riding on a railcar provided to Domtar by Defendant
Kiamichi. The railcar was moving through a maintenance
building on the Domtar premises when the top of the railcar
collided with the top of the building's entryway because
the railcar was too tall to enter the building. The Decedent
was knocked off the railcar and killed.
railcar involved was a “high capacity” railcar,
and the words “EXCESS HEIGHT CAR” were stenciled
on each end. ECF No. 28, ¶ 11; ECF No. 32. The
railcar's dimensions were stenciled on each side. ECF No.
28, ¶ 12; ECF No. 32. It is undisputed that
“[t]here is no evidence that before this incident, car
height was ever an issue at the mill or that Domtar ever
discussed car- height and vertical-clearance requirements
with Kiamichi, ” ECF No. 28, ¶ 17; ECF No. 32, and
the Domtar employee who ordered railcars on Domtar's
behalf was not aware of any railcar height restrictions, ECF
No. 28, ¶ 20; ECF No. 32. It is also undisputed that
“[o]f the six Domtar employees deposed in this case,
including the safety manager and those involved in ordering
and switching cars, none of them knew the maintenance
building's height before the accident.” ECF No. 28,
¶ 18; ECF No. 32. Likewise, Plaintiff concedes that
“[a]t the time of the accident, Domtar did not have
signs posted telling the height at the entrance to the 
maintenance building.” ECF No. 28, ¶ 24; ECF No.
32. It is undisputed that Domtar owns the yard where the
railcar was stored and that Kiamichi employees would need
Domtar's permission to be in the yard. ECF No. 28,
¶¶ 3, 4; ECF No. 32.
time of the incident, Domtar and Defendant Kiamichi were
parties to a “Switching Allowance Contract” (the
“Contract”). ECF No. 26-1; ECF No. 28, ¶ 2;
ECF No. 32. Pursuant to the Contract, once Defendant Kiamichi
delivered railcars to the yard at the Domtar facilities,
Domtar employees would move the railcars within the Domtar
premises for loading purposes and then return them to the
yard for transport. ECF No. 32, p. 2; ECF No. 26-1
(“WHEREAS, Domtar performs its own switching services
in and about the Facility and Domtar and [Kiamichi] have
agreed upon the basis upon which Domtar shall provide its own
switching services . . . Domtar agrees to perform its own
switching services in and about the Facility[.]”).
Under the Contract, Kiamichi paid Domtar $40.00 per loaded
car for performing its own switching services. ECF No. 26-1.
The Contract further provided that “Domtar assumes all
responsibility for the performance of its own switching and
spotting services in, on and about Domtar's
facility.” ECF No. 26-1.
seeks relief under theories of strict products liability and
negligence. ECF No. 3. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages,
punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs, and
post-judgment interest. ECF No. 3.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that when a party
moves for summary judgment “[t]he 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
Supreme Court has issued the following guidelines for trial
courts to determine whether this standard has been satisfied:
The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining
whether there is a need for trial-whether, in other words,
there are genuine factual issues that properly can be
resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably
be resolved in favor of either party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
(1986); see also Agristor Leasing v. Farrow, 826
F.2d 732 (8th Cir. 1987); Niagara of Wis. Paper Corp. v.
Paper Indus. Union-Mgmt. Pension Fund, 800 F.2d
742, 746 (8th Cir. 1986). A fact is material only when its
resolution affects the outcome of the case.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute is genuine if
the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to
return a verdict for either party. Id. at 252.
Court must view the evidence and the inferences that may be
reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Enterprise Bank v.
Magna Bank, 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). The moving
party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine
issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Id. The nonmoving party must then
demonstrate the existence of specific facts in the record
that create a genuine issue for trial. Krenik v. Cnty. of
Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995). A party
opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may
not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but must set forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. The non-moving
party “must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”
Matsuhita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). “A case founded on
speculation or suspicion is insufficient to survive a motion
for summary judgment.” Nat'l. Bank of Commerce
of El Dorado, Arkansas v. Dow Chem. Co., 165 F.3d 602,
610 (8th Cir. 1999). The non-moving party “must come
forward with sufficient evidence to support their claims and
cannot stand on their complaint and unfounded
speculation.” Id. (internal citations
noted above, Plaintiff seeks relief under theories of strict
products liability and negligence. The Court will address
each theory in turn.
Strict Products Liability
Kiamichi argues that Plaintiff's strict liability claims
fail because the railcar in question was not defective or
Arkansas Code provides that:
A supplier of a product is subject to liability in damages
for harm to a person or to property if: (1) The supplier is
engaged in the business of manufacturing, assembling,
selling, leasing, or otherwise distributing the product; (2)
The product was supplied by him or her in a defective
condition that rendered it unreasonably dangerous; and (3)