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BNSF Ry. Co. v. Seats Inc.

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

May 5, 2015

BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, a Delaware corporation authorized to do business in Arizona, Cross-Claimant/Appellant,
v.
SEATS INCORPORATED, a Wisconsin corporation, Cross-Defendant/Appellee

Appeal from the Superior Court in Coconino County. No. S0300CV201000845. The Honorable Cathleen Brown Nichols, Judge.

For Appellant: William L. Thorpe, Bradley D. Shwer, Kristin Paiva, Thorpe Shwer, PC, Phoenix.

For Appellee: Curtis J. Busby, Amanda E. Heitz, Bowman and Brooke, LLP, Phoenix.

For Appellee: J. Scott Jamieson, Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease, LLP, Columbus, OH.

Presiding Judge Kent E. Cattani delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop and Judge Peter B. Swann joined.

OPINION

Page 1097

CATTANI, Judge:

¶1 This appeal addresses whether the Locomotive Inspection Act (" LIA" ), 49 U.S.C. § 20701 et seq., preempts a state-law claim by a railway company alleging that a seat manufacturer failed to comply with the federal standard of care for manufacturing and installing locomotive seats. We conclude that although LIA establishes uniform federal safety regulations and preempts claims premised on a state-specific standard of care, it does not preempt claims based on the federal standard. Accordingly, we vacate the order of dismissal in this case and remand for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶2 Jeffery McKinney, a train conductor employed by BNSF Railway Company (" BNSF" ), filed a complaint under the Federal Employees Liability Act (" FELA" ) alleging, among other claims, that he sustained injuries due to an unsafe seat on a BNSF locomotive. McKinney's claims against BNSF are based on a LIA violation. McKinney amended the complaint to join Seats Inc. (" Seats" ), the manufacturer of the allegedly defective seat, as a defendant, asserting claims for products liability and negligence per se. BNSF subsequently filed cross-claims against Seats for indemnification and contribution, if McKinney were to recover from BNSF.

¶3 Seats moved to dismiss McKinney's complaint and BNSF's cross-claims under Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the basis that the claims were preempted by federal law. After briefing and argument, the superior court granted Seats' motion, holding that LIA preempts the claims at issue.

¶4 The superior court certified the judgment for Seats as final under Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), and BNSF timely appealed. We have jurisdiction under Article 6, Section 9, of the Arizona Constitution and Arizona Revised Statutes (" A.R.S." ) § § 12-120.21(A)(1) and -2101(A)(1).[1]

DISCUSSION

¶5 BNSF contends that the superior court erred by dismissing its indemnification and contribution claims, arguing that these state-law claims are not preempted by LIA because they are premised on a federal standard ...


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