Transportation Law

For over three decades, Bradley Murchison attorneys have been closely involved with the unique legal issues affecting the rail industry. Our attorneys have skillfully and successfully litigated diverse matters for both passenger and freight rail carriers, including expropriation and right-of-way disputes, grade crossing, trespasser and other third party actions, employee claims arising under the Federal Employers Liability Act, and unintended hazardous material releases resulting in both ordinary and class action proceedings. Several of our litigators are members of the prestigious American Board of Trial Advocates and one is recognized by The Best Lawyers in America® and Super Lawyers of Louisiana® in the areas of transportation and railroad law. We are active both regionally and nationally and have achieved important results benefiting the rail industry defending environmental remediation and cost recovery actions, as well as prosecuting insurance coverage disputes leading to the recovery of expenses incurred by its clients for environmental remediation.

Through our long and close partnership with the rail industry, our attorneys have developed a broad understanding of the specialized laws and regulations governing the industry's areas of operation. This wealth of experience allows us to make available to our rail industry clients knowledgeable professionals with proven resources who are keenly sensitive to the many challenges facing the industry.

Our transportation law practice also includes extensive representation of over-the-road common carriers in litigation under the Interstate Commerce Act for damage to goods in transit, moratory damages occasioned by alleged untimely delay in delivery, and a variety of other claims and regulatory matters.

Representative Matters

  • Represented the landowner in an expropriation action prosecuted by the Parish of Jefferson under Title 19 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes and venued in the Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson. The property was necessary to proposed drainage project being implemented by Army Corps of Engineers; the public purpose for the taking was not contested. The expropriating entity undervalued the property on account of the preexisting easement, ignoring the fact the antecedent servitude would be extinguished by operation of law with its taking. The litigation was resolved by compromise.
  • Currently representing a common carrier by rail in a contractual dispute over the value of crew transportation services provided in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by a local transportation company. No formal written agreement memorializing the parties’ understanding was executed. The service provider failed over the course of some eighteen months to render any invoices for the services provided, leading our client to terminate the agreement. Just ahead of the statute of limitations on open accounts, the transportation company filed suit for roughly half-million dollar, plus attorneys fees. We defended the action, negotiated a partial compromise (disposing of the attorneys fees claims and remitting the sums acknowledged as owed. The parties have recently reached a compromise agreement disposing of the remaining claims.
  • Currently representing a common carrier by railroad in connection with a fatal grade crossing accident occurring when a deaf pedestrian walked into the path of the approaching train at a railroad grade crossing controlled by cross-buck signs only (no train activated flashers were installed at the intersection). The lead locomotive was equipped with a digital video recording system preserving the event in “real time.” Also sued in the case is the municipality in which the fatal accident occurred. Motions for summary judgment are currently under submission.
  • The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a summary judgment we obtained for a common carrier by railroad, dismissing the bodily injury and associated tort claims of a minor and his parents arising out of an incident occurring near the carrier’s classification and switching yard. The minor, playing with friends on the carrier’s right of way claims he was startled by the sudden movement of a stationary train, falling beneath the train and sustain an amputation injury. We moved for summary judgment at the conclusion of discovery and the federal district court granted the motion, finding the carrier breached no duty owed to the minor.
  • Currently representing a rail carrier in multi-party litigation involving a right-of-way dispute among a couple of allegedly land-locked property owners and businesses who access and whose invitees and customers access their facilities their properties via an un-licensed private grade crossing over the carrier’s mainline. One of the businesses is using two old tanks, believed to encroach the carrier’s right-of-way for the storage and sale of diesel fuel and gasoline. The litigation is currently in active discovery; we are conferring with property abstractors regarding the disputed property claims.
  • Recently compromised and settled a multi-million dollar Federal Employers Liability Act claim prosecuted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by the client’s counsel on behalf of a locomotive engineer in his mid-forties earning annual wages in six figures for lumbar and cervical injuries sustained when coworkers engaged in yard switching kicked a multi-car cut of railcars into the stationary train he was occupying. Plaintiff was free of contributory negligence and the physician to whom his lawyers referred him performed six separate procedures, including failed multi-level fusions in his cervical and lumbar spine.
  • Currently prosecuting tort indemnity claims under Louisiana law against a plant contractor who negligently failed to inspect, maintain and repair the hopper door closure mechanisms on a fleet of open top hoppers owned by the plant operator and used within the refinery to transport caustic refinery by-products. Due to undiscovered and unrepaired defects in one of the hoppers, a cut of traincars derailed resulting in bodily injuries to one of our client’s employees. His claims against our client, and against the plant owner and another contractor were compromised and settled. Our client is seeking to recover its settlement sums back from the culpable contractor.
  • Currently representing a rail carrier in a hybrid FELA/state tort suit prosecuted by an injured railroad maintenance of way supervisor who was injured in August 2009 as he attempted to move his hi-rail vehicle through a work zone. The carrier’s mainline was under repair due to damage caused by two hurricanes. Heavy machinery, operated by railroad contractors’ employees, were being used to accomplish the track work. The claimant’s vehicle was struck by the bucket of a rip-rap laden track hoe, ripping the roof off of the crew cab and severely injuring claimant. We are defending the carrier in the FELA claims and are concurrently pursuing contractual indemnity claims against the contractor who provided the track hoe and operator at the site. The case is set for trial in December 2012 in the Fortieth Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. John the Baptist.
  • In March of 2012, after completing pretrial discovery we successfully moved on our railroad client’s behalf for summary judgment in a grade crossing accident case occurring in June 2008 in St. John the Baptist Parish. We used the testimony we obtained from plaintiff’s retained expert, together with the testimony of the train crew and photographs obtained by the railroad’s risk management department, in support of our motion.
  • Currently representing our railroad client in a grade crossing fatality case pending in the 21st Judicial District Court for the Parish of Livingston. Early on the 9th of July 2009, an east bound train stuck a south bound tractor-trailer rig at a cross-buck only crossing in Walker, Louisiana. The lead locomotive of the train tee-boned the tractor, igniting the diesel fuel and producing a explosion and fire-ball that produced 100% third-degree burns of the body of the operator of the truck. Decedent was survived by a widow and eight minor children under the age of ten. Also sued are the municipality where the collision occurred, the parish government and the developer of the industrial park where the fatal accident occurred. The case is in discovery; we expect the trial to be set for early March 2013.

Shreveport

401 EDWARDS ST., SUITE 1000
SHREVEPORT, LA 71101-5529
P: (318) 227-1131
F: (318) 227-1141

New Orleans

1100 POYDRAS, SUITE 2700
NEW ORLEANS, LA 70163
P: (504) 596-6300
F: (504) 596-6301

Baton Rouge

301 MAIN ST., SUITE 2100
BATON ROUGE, LA 70825
P: (225) 490-5000
F: (225) 490-5001

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