Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Valenzuela v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 27, 2016

Alonzo Valenzuela, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Union Pacific Railroad Company, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          David G. Campbell United States District Judge

         The Court held a status conference on May 25, 2016. Before the conference, the Court reviewed the parties’ status report (Doc. 132) and the briefing on Plaintiffs’ motions to dismiss counts 1 and 2 of Union Pacific’s counterclaim and for a more definite statement on Union Pacific’s unjust enrichment counterclaim (Doc. 117). This order will set a briefing schedule and identify additional issues to be addressed by the parties on the collateral estoppel argument raised by Plaintiffs, decline to address the merits arguments made by Plaintiffs on counts 1 and 2, deny the motion for a more definite statement, and resolve three discovery disputes raised during the conference.

         I. Collateral Estoppel.

         Plaintiffs and Kinder Morgan argue that Union Pacific is bound in this litigation, under principles of collateral estoppel, by the decision of the California Court of Appeals in Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Santa Fe Pacific Pipelines, Inc., 231 Cal.App.4th 134 (2014), on the question of rights acquired by Union Pacific or its predecessors under the pre-1871 Acts and the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875. The parties have submitted extensive briefing and factual material. The Court will hold oral argument on this issue on July 5, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. The parties each shall file one additional memorandum, not to exceed 12 pages, addressing issues A-D identified below. Plaintiffs and Kinder Morgan shall file their memoranda by June 15, 2016. Union Pacific shall file its memorandum by June 24, 2016. No additional briefing is warranted.

         A. Did Kinder Morgan ask the California trial court to hold that Union Pacific lacked title under the pre-1871 Acts or the 1875 Act to grant the easements at issue in the litigation? If yes, Plaintiffs or Kinder Morgan should provide the Court with the specific trial court pleadings in which that request was made.[1]

         B. Did the trial court decide whether Union Pacific had title under the pre-1871 Acts or the 1875 Act to grant the easements at issue in that litigation? If yes, Plaintiffs or Kinder Morgan should provide the court with the transcript, minute entry, or order in which the trial court decided that issue. If no, why did the trial court not decide that issue if it was raised by Kinder Morgan?

         C. Was this assertion - that Union Pacific did not have title under the pre-1871 Acts or the 1875 Act to grant the easements - raised by Kinder Morgan on appeal to the California Court of Appeals, either in its notice of appeal or its pre-hearing briefs?[2] If yes, Plaintiffs or Kinder Morgan should provide the Court with the notice of appeal or pre-oral-argument appellate briefs in which it was raised. If no, why was it not raised by Kinder Morgan on appeal if, in fact, it was raised and decided in the trial court?

         D. According to Kinder Morgan’s brief, an issue is sufficiently litigated for collateral estoppel purposes “when it is properly raised, by the pleadings or otherwise, and is submitted for determination, and is determined.” Doc. 128 at 6 (emphasis in original; citation omitted). If Kinder Morgan did not ask the trial court to hold that Union Pacific lacked title under the pre-1871 Acts or the 1875 Act to grant the easements, how is this requirement satisfied?

         II. Merits of Counterclaims 1 and 2.

         If the Court finds that collateral estoppel does not apply, the Court concludes that it should not attempt to decide the merits of counterclaims 1 and 2 now. As the amended complaint makes clear, Union Pacific’s rights under the pre-1871 Acts or the 1875 Act lie at the heart of this case. Doc. 75. This issue would be better decided on a more complete factual record, when the Court knows whether these pre-1871 Acts and the 1875 Act are even at issue with respect to the easements in this case, and when the Court has a better understanding of the history and use of the easements. Deciding the issue now, on the basis of no factual record and truncated briefing on a motion to dismiss, will not produce a fully-informed decision. Thus, to the extent that Plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss asks the Court to rule, independent of collateral estoppel, that Union Pacific lacked title under the pre-1871 Acts or the 1875 Act to grant the easements, it is denied without prejudice.

         Kinder Morgan argues that the counterclaims should be dismissed under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Doc. 128 at 15-16. But Kinder Morgan is not the defendant in the counterclaims and has not filed a motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs do not raise Rooker-Feldman in their motion. The Court will not address the doctrine.

         III. Motion for More Definite Statement.

         Rule 12(e) provides that “[a] party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Rule 12(e) motions are “‘ordinarily restricted to situations where a pleading suffers from unintelligibility rather than want of detail, and if the requirements of the general rule as to pleadings are satisfied and the opposing party is fairly notified of the nature of the claim, such motion is inappropriate.’” Castillo v. Norton, 219 F.R.D. 155, 163 (D. Ariz. 2003) (quoting Sheffield v. Orius Corp., 211 F.R.D. 411, 414-15 (D. Or. 2002)). “Where the detail sought is available through discovery, the motion should be denied.” Wessels v. Moore Excavation, Inc., No. 03:14-CV-01329-HZ, 2014 WL 6750350, at *3 (D. Or. Dec. 1, 2014).

         Union Pacific’s unjust enrichment counterclaim alleges that the company made “substantial improvements to the property” claimed by Plaintiffs, and that Plaintiffs would be unjustly enriched if they were granted the right to use the property without compensating Union Pacific for the improvements. Countercomplaint, ¶ 48. Plaintiffs argue that these allegations “are so vague and ambiguous that Plaintiffs cannot reasonably prepare a response.” Doc. 117 at 16. The Court does not agree. This is not a case where the pleading suffers from unintelligibility; Plaintiffs clearly understand that Union Pacific asserts a counterclaim for unjust enrichment, and do not ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.