OCTOBER TERM, 1999
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit
No. 99-312. Argued March 1, 2000—Decided April 17, 2000
The Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970 (FRSA) authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to promulgate regulations and issue orders for railroad safety, and it requires the Secretary to maintain a coordinated effort to solve railroad grade crossing problems. The FRSA also has an express pre-emption provision. One regulation promulgated by the Secretary, through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), addresses the adequacy of warning devices installed under the Federal Railway-Highway Crossings Program (Crossings Program). That program provides funds to States for the construction of such devices pursuant to the Highway Safety Act of 1973. According to the regulation, adequate warning devices installed using federal funds, where any of several conditions are present, are automatic gates and flashing lights. 23 CFR § 646.214(b)(3). For crossings where those conditions are not present, a State's decision about what devices to install is subject to FHWA approval. § 646.214(b)(4). Respondent's husband was killed when petitioner's train hit his vehicle at a crossing with advance warning signs and reflectorized crossbucks that the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) had installed using federal funds under the Crossings Program. The signs were installed and fully compliant with applicable federal standards. Respondent brought a diversity wrongful death action in federal court, alleging that petitioner was negligent in, among other things, failing to maintain adequate warning devices at the crossing. The District Court denied petitioner's summary judgment motion, holding that the FRSA did not pre-empt respondent's inadequate warning device claim. After a trial, the jury awarded respondent damages on this and other negligence issues. The Sixth Circuit affirmed.
Held: The FRSA, in conjunction with §§ 646.214(b)(3) and (4), pre-empts state tort claims concerning a railroad's failure to maintain adequate warning devices at crossings where federal funds have participated in the devices' installation. In CSX Transp., Inc. v. Easterwood, 507 U. S. 658, 670, this Court held that, because §§ 646.214(b)(3) and (4) "establish requirements as to the installation of particular warning devices," "when they are applicable, state tort law is pre-empted." Thus,Page: Index 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Next
Last modified: October 4, 2007