United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
SCOTT R. WOLFE, Plaintiff,
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, a Delaware corporation Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. WATTERS United States District Judge
the Court is Defendant BNSF's Motion for Summary
Judgment. (Doc. 131). BNSF argues it is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law on Plaintiff Scott Wolfe's negligent
mismanagement claim regarding the reinstatement process and
on Wolfe's punitive damages claim. For the foregoing
reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the
is a longtime employee of BNSF. In December 2008, Wolfe
worked in Shelby, Montana, as a track inspector for the first
time. Before then, he worked primarily as a foreman and a
machine operator at BNSF. BNSF provided Wolfe with a hi-rail
truck, which can be driven along the rails, to inspect track.
morning of December 18, 2008, Wolfe requested track authority
from the dispatcher, James Trotchie, to go east on a
particular stretch of track. Trotchie did not hear whether
Wolfe requested east or west. (Doc. 56-10 at 25). Trotchie
assumed Wolfe wanted to go west and granted Wolfe's
request. (Doc. 56-10 at 25). Trotchie was aware there was a
westbound train approaching from the east. (Doc. 56-10 at
29). Wolfe, thinking he had been approved to go east, headed
encountered the westbound train head on. Wolfe jumped off the
hi-rail truck before it was hit by the train. The truck was
damaged, but Wolfe was not physically injured.
conducted a formal investigation into the accident,
determined Wolfe was at fault, and terminated his employment.
Wolfe challenged his termination before the National Railroad
Adjustment Board (NRAB). The NRAB reduced Wolfe's
termination to a long-term suspension and ordered him
filed a complaint in Montana state court under Mont. Code
Ann. § 39-2-703, which creates a cause of action against
railways for negligent mismanagement. Wolfe's amended
complaint alleged BNSF's mismanagement caused the
collision which led to his dismissal ("Collision
Claim") and that BNSF mismanaged the subsequent
investigation ("Investigation Claim"). (Doc. 69).
The amended complaint included a claim for punitive damages
("Punitives Claim"). BNSF removed the case to
federal court and filed for summary judgment, arguing
Wolfe's claims were preempted by the Railway Labor Act.
This Court granted summary judgment to BNSF. Wolfe appealed
to the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and
reversed in part. The Ninth Circuit held the Investigation
Claim was preempted but the Collision Claim was not
the case was on appeal, Wolfe underwent a medical exam as
part of the reinstatement process. (Doc. 133 at 3). BNSF
concluded Wolfe failed the medical exam and refused to
reinstate Wolfe. (Doc. 133 at 3-4). On remand from the Ninth
Circuit, Wolfe moved to amend the complaint, which this Court
granted. (Doc. 101). Wolfe's second amended complaint
alleges BSNF mismanaged Wolfe's reinstatement process
("Reinstatement Claim"). (Doc. 102).
Summary judgment standard
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). A party seeking summary judgment always
bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of
the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of
the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue
of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986).
facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., Ml U.S. 242, 248
(1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there
is sufficient evidence for a reasonable fact-finder to return
a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477
U.S. at 248. If the moving party meets its initial
responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party
to establish that a genuine issue of fact exists.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
argues summary judgment is appropriate on the Reinstatement
Claim because, among other reasons, the Reinstatement Claim
is time-barred and does not relate back to the original
complaint. Wolfe agrees the claim is time-barred, but argues
the Reinstatement Claim does relate back. BNSF contends
summary judgment is appropriate on the Punitives Claim