Norfolk Southern Railway Company v. GoldthwaiteAnnotate this Case
James H. Goldthwaite lived in his Birmingham house for approximately 45 years. The house was adjacent to or near property on which were actively used railroad tracks owned by Norfolk Southern. The record reflected that Norfolk Southern used one of the railroad tracks located near Goldthwaite's house as a staging or temporary storage area for coal trains, which consist of empty rail cars and cars loaded with coal. In October 2013, Goldthwaite filed a complaint against Norfolk Southern alleging that his "life, health, liberty and possessions" have been harmed by noise and "noxious fumes" from the diesel locomotives that were left running in coal trains that are temporarily stored near his house. Norfolk Southern had the case removed to the United States District Court on the ground that Goldthwaite's claims were completely preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995, and that the federal district court had federal question jurisdiction for the limited purpose of dismissing the action. In April 2014, the federal district court held that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the action because Goldthwaite's state-law claims were not completely preempted by the ICCTA. Holding that removal of the action from state court was not proper, the federal district court remanded the case to the Jefferson Circuit Court. On remand, Norfolk Southern moved the circuit court to dismiss the action, arguing, among other things, that Goldthwaite's claims were preempted under the ICCTA because, it maintained, the nuisance action was an attempt to regulate transportation by rail carrier and actions related to the regulation and operation of rail carriers, pursuant to the ICCTA, were within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Surface Transportation Board. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed that Goldthwaite's claims were preempted by the ICCTA, the circuit court erred in denying Norfolk Southern's motion to dismiss. Therefore, the Court reversed the circuit court's order denying Norfolk Southern's motion to dismiss and rendered a judgment for Norfolk Southern, dismissing Goldthwaite's state court action.