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Hall v. Amtrak National Railroad Passenger Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 11, 2019

RANDY LEE HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
AMTRAK NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTIONS

          WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         This action is brought by a father, proceeding pro se, against the operators of the train that struck and killed his daughter. Plaintiff moves to remand the action to state court or, in the alternative, transfer to a different division within the district. In addition, defendants move to dismiss the complaint. Plaintiff seeks a stay of defendants' motion. For the reasons stated herein, each of these motions are DENIED.

         STATEMENT

         On August 4, 2016, an Amtrak train struck and killed Dejani Monette Hall as she walked to a gym in Merced, California. No Amtrak employee attempted to resuscitate her (Dkt. No. 7, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10, 13).

         On August 2, 2018, plaintiff Randy Lee Hall brought this action against Amtrak and six Amtrak employees in California Superior Court, County of Contra Costa. The complaint averred two claims: (i) gross negligence and (ii) dangerous condition of public and private property (Dkt. No. 1, Exh. A at 3, 7). Plaintiff served the complaint on March 25, 2019 (Dkt. No. 7, Proof of Service Cover Sheet at 2). Defendants' counsel received the complaint on March 29, 2019 (Dkt. Nos. 33-1, Exhs. A, B; 35 ¶¶ 2, 3).

         On April 29, 2019, plaintiff amended his complaint. The amended complaint narrowed the list of defendants to Amtrak National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Engineer Jonathan Staska, Conductor Denise Hogg, and Assistant Conductor Michael John Torrence (Dkt. No. 7, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2-5). The amended complaint also expanded the list of alleged claims. Specifically, the amended complaint alleged two claims for gross negligence, two claims for general negligence, one claim for dangerous condition of private property, one claim for wrongful death, one claim for a survival action, one claim for negligence per se, and three claims solely against Amtrak for negligent hiring and training of the three employee-defendants.

         Defendants removed here (Dkt. No. 1). The removal process spanned three days. Specifically, on April 29, 2019, defendants filed a notice of removal in federal court. The next day, on April 30, defendants filed the notice of removal with the state court (Dkt. Nos. 7; 40-1, Exh. E). On May 1, defendants filed the bundle of state court documents to the federal docket (Dkt. No. 7).

         A flurry of motions followed. Plaintiff moved to remand back to state court (Dkt. No. 12) or, in the alternative, have the action transferred to the Oakland Division in this district (Dkt. No. 9). Before these motions could be heard, however, plaintiff declined magistrate jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 19). Upon reassignment, defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint (Dkt. No. 26). Plaintiff subsequently objected to the motion to dismiss and moved to stay the motion pending resolution of his two jurisdictional motions (Dkt. No. 30), which he re-filed (Dkt. Nos. 31, 33). An order subsequently denied the first-filed jurisdictional motions as moot in light of the re-filed versions (Dkt. No. 45).

         When the dust settled, four motions remained: plaintiff's motions to remand, transfer venue, and to stay, and defendants' motion to dismiss. The parties fully briefed the motion to remand (Dkt. Nos. 38, 40), motion to transfer venue (Dkt. Nos. 39, 42), and motion to dismiss (Dkt. Nos. 29, 37, 41).

         A hearing was scheduled for July 11, 2019 at 8:00 A.M. The case was called. Pro se plaintiff appeared, but defendants' counsel were not there. The case was put to the end of the calendar to give counsel the opportunity to appear. At the end of the calendar, the case was recalled but counsel were still not there. Pro se plaintiff came all the way from Contra Costa County - defendants' counsel never bothered to show up. This order follows.

         ANALYSIS

         This order denies all the motions brought by the parties. First, Amtrak's removal was proper because there would have been original jurisdiction over this action and defendants removed within thirty days of formal service of process. Second, venue in the San Francisco Division of the Northern District of California remains proper. Plaintiff has not sufficiently justified an intradistrict transfer to the Oakland Division. Third, defendants' motion to dismiss is denied on account of the failure of defendants' to show up to the hearing.

         1. ...


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