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Rayburn v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

October 31, 2017

BRIAN RAYBURN, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant. CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant/ Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
NIAGARA MOHAWK POWER CORPORATION, Third-Party Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          Lawrence E. Kahn U.S. District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiffs Brian and Kayla Rayburn commenced this action against defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. on December 6, 2016, by filing a complaint in the New York State Supreme Court in St. Lawrence County. Dkt. No. 2 ("Complaint"). CSX removed the action to this Court on January 17, 2017. Dkt. No. 1 ("Notice of Removal"). CSX impleaded Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, Brian Rayburn's employer, as a third-party defendant on January 26, 2017. Dkt. No. 8-1 ("Third-Party Complaint"). Niagara moved for a judgement on the pleadings on April 7, 2017. Dkt. No. 27 ("Niagara's Motion"). CSX filed a declaration in partial opposition on May 19, 2017, and also requested that the Court dismiss its third-party action without prejudice. Dkt. No. 37 ("CSX's Motion"). For the following reasons, CSX's Motion is denied, and Niagara's Motion is granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On May 20, 2016, Mr. Rayburn was working in Gouverneur, New York, as an employee of Niagara. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 12.[1] Plantiffs allege that as part of his job, he used a ladder to access a utility pole owned by CSX in order to work on the electrical power lines attached to it. Id. ¶¶ 12-16. The power lines were owned by Niagara and provided electricity to CSX's railroad crossing. Id. ¶¶ 10-15. Plaintiffs further allege that the utility pole broke while Mr. Rayburn was accessing it, causing him to fall to the ground and to sustain "significant personal injuries." Id. ¶¶ 17-19. Mr. Rayburn now sues CSX for negligence, Id. ¶¶ 23-27, and New York State labor law violations, id ¶¶ 29-34. Mrs. Rayburn seeks damages for the loss of "love, compassion and services of her husband." Id. ¶¶ 37-39. CSX raises a number of defenses to Plaintiffs' claims, including that any injuries to Mr. Rayburn were a result of his culpable conduct and that Mr. Rayburn assumed the risk. Dkt. No. 6 ("Answer") ¶¶ 6, 8.

         On January 16, 2017, CSX brought a third-party action against Niagara as Mr. Rayburn's employer and owner of the electrical power lines, seeking indemnification. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 16. CSX alleges that Niagra's negligence caused Mr. Rayburn's injuries, id ¶ 22, and that "agreements and understandings were in place whereby" Niagara would seek permission from CSX before accessing the pole in question, id ¶ 8. Niagara argues, among other defenses, that CSX's claims are barred by New York State Workers' Compensation Law §11, which precludes third-party indemnification of employers, absent limited exceptions. Dkt. No. 21 ("Answer to Third-Party Complaint") ¶ 37. Niagara moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that employer indemnification is barred by the Workers' Compensation Law and that CSX has not alleged either a grave injury or an express indemnification agreement, which would allow for indemnification. Niagara's Mot.

         On May 17, 2017, CSX submitted a letter to the Court offering to execute a stipulation dismissing the Third-Party Complaint without prejudice. Dkt. No. 36 ("Letter Brief). Niagara rejected the offer, instead offering to accept a dismissal with prejudice. Dkt. No. 37-2 ("Cost E-mail"). Following this exchange, CSX responded to Niagara's Motion on May 19, 2017. CSX's Mot. CSX again requested that the Court dismiss the Third-Party Complaint without prejudice because CSX did not yet know if Mr. Rayburn sustained grave injuries that would allow CSX to indemnify Niagara under New York law. Id. ¶¶ 11-12.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Voluntary Dismissal by Court Order

          Under Rule 41(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "an action maybe dismissed at the plaintiffs request only by court order, on terms that the court considers proper .... Unless the order states otherwise, a dismissal under this paragraph is without prejudice." "[Dismissals are at the district court's discretion." D'Alto v. Dahon Cal. Inc., 100 F.3d 281, 283 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing Zagano v. Fordham Univ., 900 F.2d 12, 14 (2d Cir. 1990)).

         In considering when dismissal without prejudice would be proper, "[t]wo lines of authority have developed" in the Second Circuit. Camilli v. Grimes, 436 F.3d 120, 123 (2d Cir. 2006). The first "line indicates that such a dismissal would be improper if 'the defendant would suffer some plain legal prejudice other than the mere prospect of a second lawsuit.'" Id. (quoting Cone v. W.Va. Pulp & Paper Co., 330 U.S. 212, 217 (1947)). The second "line indicates that the test for dismissal without prejudice involves consideration of various factors, known as the Zagano factors." Id. (citing D'Alto, 100 F.3d at 283; Zagano, 900 F.2d at 14). In Zagano, the Second Circuit, noting that "[v]oluntary dismissal without prejudice is . . . not a matter of right, " outlined five "[f]actors relevant to the consideration of a motion to dismiss without prejudice." Zagano, 900 F.2d at 14. These factors are: (1) "the plaintiffs diligence in bringing the motion;" (2) "any 'undue vexatiousness' on plaintiffs part;" (3) "the extent to which the suit has progressed, including the defendant's effort and expense in preparation for trial;" (4) "the duplicative expense of relitigation;" and (5) "the adequacy of plaintiff s explanation for the need to dismiss." Id. (citing Bosteve Ltd. v. Marauszwki, 110 F.R.D. 257, 259 (E.D.N.Y. 1986); Harvey Aluminum, Inc. v. Am. Cyanamid Co., 15 F.R.D. 14, 18 (S.D.N.Y. 1953)). The Zagano "factors are not necessarily exhaustive and no one of them, singly or in combination with another, is dispositive." Kwan v. Schlein, 634 F.3d 224, 230 (2d Cir. 2011).

         B. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         The standard for a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure"is the same as that for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim." Cleveland v. Caplaw Enters., 448 F.3d 518, 521 (2d Cir. 2006) (citing Karedes v. Ackerley Grp., Inc., 423 F.3d 107, 113 (2d Cir. 2005)). To avoid dismissal, a "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A court must accept as true the factual allegations contained in a complaint and draw all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Allaire Corp. v. Okumus, 433 F.3d 248, 249-50 (2d Cir. 2006). Plausibility, however, requires "enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the alleged misconduct]." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. The plausibility standard "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Where a court is unable to infer more than the possibility of misconduct based on the pleaded facts, the pleader has not demonstrated that he is entitled to relief, and the action is subject to dismissal. Id. at 678-79. Nevertheless, "[f]act-specific question[s] cannot be resolved on the pleadings." Anderson News, L.L.C. v. Am. Media, Inc., 680 F.3d 162, 185 (2d Cir. 2012) (second alteration in original) (quoting Todd v. Exxon Corp., 275 F.3d 191, 203 (2d Cir. 2001)). Presented with "two plausible inferences that maybe drawn from factual allegations, " a court "may not properly dismiss a complaint that states a plausible version of the events merely because the court finds a different version more plausible." Id.

         IV. ...


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