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Rodriguez v. County of Stanislaus

September 16, 2010

LUCIO CORRAL RODRIGUEZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUCCESSOR IN INTEREST TO THE DECEDENTS, MARICRUZ CORRAL, IVAN ALEXANDER CORRAL, AND LUCIO ANTHONY CORRAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF STANISLAUS; CITY OF MODESTO; CITY OF RIVERBANK; STATE OF CALIFORNIA; AMTRAK CALIFORNIA; BURLINGTON NORTHERN SANTA FE RAILWAY; AND DOES 1 TO 200, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL PRODUCTION OF INSPECTION VIDEO, DOCUMENTS RELATING TO DECEDENT'S COLLEGE ATTENDANCE, AND THE DEPOSITION OF THE CUSTODIAN OF RECORDS FOR CPS SECURITY SOLUTIONS, INC.(Document 168)

On July 15, 2010, Defendants National Railroad Passenger Corporation, BNSF Railway Company and the California Department of Transportation ("Defendants") filed a Motion to Compel Plaintiff Lucio Corral Rodriguez to produce "any and all fruits of his unlawful inspection of the subject railroad crossing," and any and all records regarding decedent Maricruz Corral's attendance at Modesto Junior College. Defendants also seek an order requiring Ana Torres, custodian of records for CPS Security Solutions, Inc., to appear for a deposition and produce all related documents. (Doc. 168.)

On July 30, 2010, Plaintiff filed his opposition to Defendants' motion. (Doc. 179.)

On or about August 2, 2010, this Court determined the motion was suitable for decision without oral argument. (See Docs. 183-186.)

DISCUSSION

A. Videotape of Site Inspection

1. Relevant Background

Defendants assert that on May 19, 2010, about six weeks after the close of non-expert discovery in this matter, a BNSF signal inspector observed a group of people standing "on and around the Claribel Road [railroad] crossing taking measurements and video of the crossing." (Doc. 168 at 3; see also Fasching Decl., ¶ 2.) Defendants asserts that BNSF has a right of way at the crossing, and that at least one member of the group was observed to stand between the tracks in the area. (Doc. 168 at 3; see also Fasching Decl., ¶ 3.) The BNSF signal inspector asked the group to vacate BNSF property twice, but the group refused, "mistakenly stating that the crossing is public property." Thereafter, the inspector requested the assistance of a special agent from BNSF dispatch. (Doc. 168 at 3; see also Fasching Decl., ¶¶ 4-5, 8.)

A senior special agent responded to the area, however, upon his arrival the group was across the street from BNSF property. (Doc. 168 at 3; see also Fasching Decl., ¶ 8 & Chiasson Decl., ¶ 4.) The agent "spoke with one person in the group who was evasive," who informed the agent that the group was concerned about vehicles stopping on the crossing. The agent warned the group to keep off BNSF property and the group apparently promised to do so. (Doc. 168 at 3-4; see also Fasching Decl., ¶¶ 5-6.)

Counsel for Defendants contacted Plaintiff's counsel upon learning of the aforementioned occurrence, "inquiring about the inspection, demanding production of the videotape, and admonishing Plaintiff and his agents to cease all unauthorized contact with BNSF employees and to remain off BNSF property." (Doc. 168 at 4; see also Doc. 172, Exs. A & C.) Because Plaintiff has not provided Defendants with a copy of the videotape, Defendants seek an order compelling same. (Doc. 168 at 4.) Defendants assert that because representatives for Plaintiff "unlawfully trespassed on BNSF's property, taking measurements and video of the subject crossing, BNSF employees, and BNSF vehicles, and communicating with BNSF employees without the presence of BNSF's counsel," this Court should issue an order compelling Plaintiff "to produce any and all fruits of this unlawful inspection of the subject railroad crossing, including, but not limited to, videos, photos and measurements." (Doc. 168 at 6-7.)

In opposition to Defendants' assertions, Plaintiff contends that Defendants have failed to cite to any relevant legal authority, and have failed to reference any law that forbids members of the public from crossing railroad tracks at a public crossing. Plaintiff contends his experts "never left the public roadway" and "never traveled on BNSF's property other than by way of the public roadway." (Doc. 179 at 3.)

Plaintiff points out that in the May 5, 2010, deposition of John Stilley, BNSF's person most qualified, Mr. Stilley testified that BNSF may have an easement over the roadway in question, but that "the records that exist make it impossible to know for sure." (Doc. 179 at 3 & Ex. 1.) Nevertheless, contends Plaintiff, the area is a public roadway and thus accessible to Plaintiff's experts. Morever, because the area inspected is open to the public, Plaintiff contends a notice of inspection was not required. Finally, Plaintiff offers, "in the spirit of compromise," to provide Defendants with a copy of the inspection videotape "as long as it is ordered by the Court that in doing so Plaintiff is not waiving his work-product." (Doc. 179 at 4.)

2. Analysis

Defendants' motion on this basis is DENIED. Defendants have failed to provide any legal authority in support of their request for an order compelling production of the videotape from Plaintiff, and neither has the Court identified any such legal authority. This Court finds Plaintiff's experts could properly inspect the subject area - a public railroad crossing ...


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