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Parsley v. Norfolk And Western Railway Co.

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division

February 13, 2018




         Now pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 3. For the reasons specified herein, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed the present Complaint in Wayne County, West Virginia on October 10, 2017. ECF No. 1. Defendant removed the case to this Court on November 15, 2017 based on diversity jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. Defendant then filed the present Motion to Dismiss on November 16, 2017, in which it claims that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the relevant statute of limitations and that Plaintiff has no legal standing to bring his claims. ECF No. 3. Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant's Motion.

         II. Standard of Review

         In deciding a motion to dismiss, a court must “accept[ ] all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and draw[ ] all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor.” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999). The plaintiff's allegations, however, “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A defendant is entitled to dismissal if the plaintiff has failed to state “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 547.

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff's Complaint does not make clear whether he brings this action in negligence or in contract. While Count I of the Complaint alleges that Defendant was negligent in maintaining the crossing, Plaintiff seems to also plead a breach of contract case in the Complaint. ECF No. 1-2. Reading the Complaint in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, as is required at this stage in the proceedings, the Court will consider Plaintiff's claims pursuant to both legal theories in addressing Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         a. Action in Negligence

         The Court's jurisdiction over this matter is grounded in diversity. As such, the Erie doctrine prescribes that West Virginia state law is to be used to determine matters as they pertain to statutes of limitations. Patrick v. Sharon Steel Corp., 549 F.Supp. 1259, 1263 (N.D.W.Va. 1982) (citing Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 302 U.S. 64, 72 (1938) (“Except in matters governed by the Federal Constitution or by acts of Congress, the law to be applied in any case is the law of the state.”). In West Virginia, “claims in tort for negligence . . . are governed by a two-year statute of limitation.” Trafalgar House Const., Inc. v. ZMM, Inc., 567 S.E.2d 294, 299 (W.Va. 2002); W.Va. Code § 55-2-12 (1959).

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff claims that Defendant negligently failed to maintain a railroad crossing on the property in question and that, as a result, a structure on that property burned on December 24, 2011. ECF No. 1-2. Plaintiff did not file his Complaint in state court until October 2017, nearly six years after he suffered the alleged losses. To the extent Plaintiff pleads an action in negligence, then, Plaintiff's claims are clearly barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Accordingly, as to any negligence claim brought in Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         b. Action in Contract

         This does not, however, dispose of all of Plaintiff's claims at this time. The Court will also analyze Plaintiff's case as it pertains to relevant contract law. The applicable statute of limitations for cases brought in contract is substantially longer than that controlling claims of negligence. In West Virginia, an action to recover for breach of a written contract must be brought within ten years after the right to bring the action accrues. W.Va. Code § 55-2-6 (1923). The Court does not reach the issue of claim accrual at this time, however, because, as explained below, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to show proper standing to bring his case in contract.

         The Constitution requires that a plaintiff must have legal standing in order for a court to properly hear his case. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). Standing has three requirements. Id. First, the plaintiff must have suffered an “injury in fact, ” meaning he must have suffered “an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent . . .” Id. Second, the plaintiff must show a causal connection between the injury and the complained-of conduct. Id. Finally, ...

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