Summary Judgment for Class I Railroad Obtained in Derailment Case

Burns White attorneys, T. H. Lyda and Edwin Palmer, obtained a summary judgment for a Class I railroad in a case brought by multiple plaintiffs seeking certification of a class action on behalf of residents of Hyndman, Pennsylvania who were evacuated following a 2017 derailment.

U.S. District Judge Kim R. Gibson ruled that the plaintiffs’ claims were barred by Pennsylvania’s economic loss doctrine. The economic loss doctrine bars recovery of purely economic damages where a plaintiff has not sustained physical injury or property damage. As Judge Gibson explained in his ruling,

A defendant must cause ‘actual physical harm’ to a plaintiff’s property for the plaintiff to recover economic losses as a result of the conduct. Mere denial of access to property is an economic loss that does not by itself satisfy the physical harm requirement. Although plaintiffs assert they suffer from fear and anxiety as a result of the derailment, those symptoms have not physically manifested … Fear and anxiety without physical manifestation are economic losses that are not recoverable under Pennsylvania law.

Based on his ruling granting summary judgment, Judge Gibson further held that the resident’s motion for class certification was moot.