Railroad

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Rail clients come to us for help with litigation, labor and employment needs, and tax assistance. Baker Donelson has been the leading litigation firm on behalf of almost all the major railroads and private carlines challenging discriminatory taxation by state and local governments, and has been ranked among the top five law firms in the country for Railroad Law by Best Lawyers in America® 2011. Utilizing a federal statute prohibiting such discrimination, our trial lawyers have represented the major railroads in state and federal courts in more than 30 states, before the United States Supreme Court, and the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth United States Courts of Appeal. The railroad industry has saved hundreds of millions of dollars due to the success of this litigation.

In addition to our tax work, we are national counsel to a Class 1 railroad on compliance with Federal regulation of noise in the workplace and noise-related claims and lawsuits. We also represent a newly formed Regional Railroad Authority, which aims to fund, construct and operate a railroad from the Gulf Coast up to Meridian, Mississippi.

Representative Matters

  • Wrongful death arising out of vehicle-train accident in St. Charles Parish. Plaintiff alleged the crossing was a dangerous trap, the crew failed to properly sound horn, the train was traveling at excessive speed among other things. Directed verdict for the railroad.
  • Switchman coupled up between two rail cars due to reverse movement of one of the cars, leading to catastrophic injury and death. Developed facts and theory placing significant fault on the decedent, leading to settlement after three years of intensive discovery for same amount as had been offered prior to filing of the lawsuit.
  • Working with four different law firms, represented a Class 1 railroad in litigation brought on behalf of putative class of over 12,0000 persons allegedly damaged as a result of a catastrophic derailment resulting in a release of multiple hazardous substances over a period of several days. Liability issues concerned track inspection and maintenance. Claims included an allegation that Texas law applied and provided a punitive damage remedy. Court entered interlocutory order, before class certification, that plaintiffs' liaison committee was entitled to 15% of all settlements entered into between the railroad and unrepresented claimants. This order was appealed and reversed by the Fifth Circuit. Trial court's certification of a class, vacated by 5th Circuit. Case ultimately settled on settlement class basis.
  • Defense counsel for employment discrimination/harassment lawsuit against Class 1 railroad arising out of Maintenance of Way operations in southeast Louisiana. Summary judgment for the railroad company. Affirmed by the Fifth Circuit.
  • Appointed trial counsel to Class 1 railroad in "occupational exposure" cases, including hearing loss, asbestos and repetitive stress (worn-out employee) claims filed by employees under the Federal Employers Liability Act. Several dismissed on summary judgment.
  • Wrongful death claim against Class 1 railroad arising out of collision with standing train. Plaintiffs alleged failure to warn, inadequate signalization, dangerous trap, inadequate car conspicuity, and negligence per se based on violation of anti-blocking ordinance. Summary judgment granted for the railroad and affirmed by Louisiana Supreme Court.
  • After Hurricane Katrina, seven putative class actions were brought against our client alleging it damaged a flood gate near the Industrial Canal, contributing to the flooding of the City of New Orleans. Our client was not involved, and we were able to secure voluntary dismissals of all suits against our client without litigation and at minimal cost to the client.
  • FELA plaintiff alleged poor footing and improper handholds in connection with fall from a tank car. Summary judgment in favor of railroad granted on theory that Safety Appliance Act precludes plaintiff's claims.
  • Putative national class action was filed on behalf of every transportation employee working for any one or more of the five Class 1 railroads in the United States seeking injunctive relief and money damages on the basis of allegations that the railroads were negligent and, in addition, conspired in failing to warn the employees against the hazards of exposures to toxic chemicals at railroad yards and at industrial plants. Working with a team of attorneys for all major railroads. Obtained dismissal of all but FELA claims. After additional motion practice, plaintiffs dismissed all remaining claims.
  • Represented rail carrier in multi-plaintiff and multi-defendant FELA asbestos case seeking millions of dollars in damages from all parties. Nuisance value settlement of claims against client.
  • Successfully challenged in federal court a Wyoming statute that discriminatorily taxed railroads. Ongoing savings to clients exceeds $7 million annually.
  • Represented major Class I railroad in valuation case involving more than 400 local jurisdictions in New York. Federal case certified as a defendants' class. Railroad obtained 25% reduction in taxes for years at issue, plus settlement encompassing four additional years with tax savings amounting to more than $50 million.
  • Obtained an injunction in federal district court in Kansas on behalf of a private container and automobile rack rail car company enjoining the state from assessing and collecting half of the Kansas gross receipts tax. The suit filed on behalf of our client under §11501 claimed that the gross receipts tax at a 2.5% rate greatly exceeded what the tax liability would be under a properly applied property tax. After significant negotiations, the state consented to a permanent injunction enjoining it from collecting a tax any higher than 1.25% of the Kansas gross receipts.