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Rentz v. BNSF Railway Co.

Docket No. 20200074
Oral Argument: Thursday, September 17, 2020 1:30 PM

Docket Info

Title
David Phillip Rentz, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
BNSF Railway Company,
a Foreign For-Profit Corporation, Defendant and Appellant
Case Type
CIVIL APPEAL : PERSONAL INJURY
Appeal From
Case No. 2015-CV-02163
North Central Judicial District, Ward County
Stacy Joan Louser
Oral Argument 9/17/2020

Parties' Statement of Issues

  • Appellant

    1. Whether the District Court erred by treating BNSF's Rule 615 trial representative as a witness with authority to bind the corporation and allowing cross examination to far exceed the scope of the train engineer's personal knowledge and experience.
    2. Whether the District Court erred by permitting deposition excerpts from 30(b)(6) witnesses to be played during opening and closing arguments when their testimony was not admitted as substantive evidence.


Summary

BNSF Railway Co. (“BNSF”) appeals from a civil judgment entered after a jury returned a verdict against BNSF in favor of David Rentz.

In July 2012, a tractor-trailer driven by Rentz was struck by a train operated by BNSF and train engineer, Reinaldo Guitian, Jr., at a public railroad grade crossing. In December 2015, Rentz sued BNSF and Guitian for personal injuries sustained during the vehicle/train collision. Guitian was subsequently dismissed as a named defendant in the action. The district court held an eleven-day jury trial in January 2019. During trial, Guitian was not sequestered from the courtroom because he was designated as BNSF’s party representative and was seated at counsel table during trial. Guitian testified at trial. The district court permitted Guitian to testify to his personal observations and opinions.

The jury returned a verdict finding Rentz 15% at fault and BNSF 85% at fault. A money judgment was entered in favor of Rentz in the sum of $11,286,771.71. BNSF filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law and new trial. Following a motion hearing, the district court denied BNSF’s motion for a new trial.

On appeal, BNSF argues the district court erred by treating Guitian’s testimony as authorized statements of the corporation because Guitian’s testimony should have been limited to the scope of direct examination and his personal knowledge. Second, BNSF argues the district court erred by permitting deposition excerpts to be played during opening and closing statements. Third, BNSF argues that the district court erred by admitting internal policies of BNSF into evidence because the admittance of the policies created an improper standard of care. Fourth, BNSF argues the district court erred in excluding opinion testimony of a state trooper because the trooper was qualified to provide opinion testimony.


Briefs

Filing Date Description
06/30/2020 APPELLANT BRIEF View
07/10/2020 APPELLEE BRIEF View
07/24/2020 REPLY BRIEF View

Counsel

Party Type Name
APPELLANT PRIVATE PRACTICE Dale M. Schowengerdt - 09249
APPELLEE PRIVATE PRACTICE James Edward Nostdahl - 03925
APPELLEE PRIVATE PRACTICE David J Hogue - 04486
APPELLANT PRIVATE PRACTICE Michael Craig Waller - 04838
APPELLEE PRIVATE PRACTICE Not Licensed in ND - 00002
APPELLEE PRIVATE PRACTICE Steven A. Lautt - 07242

(Note: Attachments may not be available for recently filed cases and/or confidential documents.)

Seq. # Filing Date Description Attachment
1 03/06/2020 NOTICE OF APPEAL : 03/06/2020
2 03/06/2020 ORDER FOR TRANSCRIPT : 03/10/2020
3 03/09/2020 Received $125 filing fee
4 03/10/2020 NOT. OF FILING NOT. OF APPEAL AND PROOF OF SERV.
5 03/10/2020 Notice served on Michael C. Waller, Steven A. Lautt, & James E. Nostdahl
6 04/01/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED NOVEMBER 14, 2019
7 04/01/2020 Certificate of Service for Transcript
8 04/02/2020 ELEC. RECORD ON APPEAL DATED APRIL 1, 2020 (ENTRY NOS.1-649, 652-659, 661,662,664, 665, 667-677,
9 04/02/2020 679-686, 689-701, 706-711, 719, 720, 726-728, 737, 742-764, 766-772, 774-787, 790, 791, 800-811
10 04/02/2020 and 813-928) Not rec'd 650,651, 660,663, 666,678,687, 688, 702-705, 712-718, 721-725,
11 04/02/2020 729-736, 738-741, 765, 773, 788, 789, 792-799, and 812-bulky exhibits
12 04/03/2020 AMENDED ELEC. RECORD ON APPEAL DATED APRIL 3, 2020 (ENTRY NOS.1-373, 375-649, 652-659, 661, 662
13 04/03/2020 664, 665, 667-677, 679-686, 689-701, 706-711, 719, 720, 726-728, 737, 742-764, 766-772, 774-787,
14 04/03/2020 790, 791, 800-811, and 813-928) Not rec'd 374, 650,651, 660,663, 666,678,687, 688, 702-705,
15 04/03/2020 712-718, 721-725, 729-736, 738-741, 765, 773, 788, 789, 792-799, and 812 - UNABLE TO SCAN ITEMS
16 04/06/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED MAY 10, 2017
17 04/06/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED DECEMBER 13, 2017
18 04/06/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED MAY 8, 2018
19 04/07/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED AUGUST 6, 2018
20 04/06/2020 Certificate of Service for Transcripts
21 04/07/2020 Rec'd Amended Certificate of Service for Transcripts (service email addresses)
22 04/08/2020 Notice of Appearance by Dale Schowengerdt for the Appellant
23 04/09/2020 Affidavit of Thomas C. Jones in support of Admission to Practice Pro Hac Vice
24 04/09/2020 Affidavit of Timothy C. Gaarder in support of Admission to Practice Pro Hac Vice
25 04/09/2020 Affidavit of John S. Carroll in support of Admission to Practice Pro Hac Vice
26 04/09/2020 Affidavit of Grant L. Davis in support of Admission to Practice Pro Hac Vice
27 04/21/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 3, 2019
28 04/21/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 4, 2019
29 04/21/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 7, 2019
30 04/21/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 8, 2019
31 04/21/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 10, 2019
32 04/21/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 11, 2019
33 04/21/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 14, 2019
34 04/21/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 15, 2019
35 04/21/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 16, 2019
36 04/21/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 17, 2019
37 04/21/2020 TRANSCRIPT C.O.S.
38 05/04/2020 ELECTRONIC TRANSCRIPT DATED JANUARY 9, 2019
39 06/01/2020 APPELLANT BRIEF (non compliant, motion for additional pages and new brief filed 6/30/20)
40 06/01/2020 Oral Argument Request by Appellant
41 06/01/2020 APPELLANT APPENDIX
42 06/05/2020 Rec'd 4 copies of ATA back from Central Duplicating
43 06/08/2020 Rec'd 5 copies of ATB back from Central Duplicating
44 06/08/2020 Rec'd $150.00 e-filing surcharge for ATA (receipt # 27751)
45 06/25/2020 Notice of Appearance by David Hogue for the Appellee
46 06/30/2020 APPELLANT BRIEF View
47 06/30/2020 Unopposed Motion for Leave to File Over length Brief
48 07/01/2020 ACTION BY CHIEF JUSTICE (3 pages) - Granted : 07/01/2020
49 07/01/2020 MOT. EXT/TIME APPELLEE BRIEF (sua sponte)
50 07/01/2020 ACTION BY CLERK (sua sponte) - Granted : 07/11/2020
51 07/02/2020 APPELLEE'S MOTION TO FILE OVERLENGTH BRIEF (3 PAGES)
52 07/02/2020 ACTION BY CHIEF JUSTICE (3 pages) - Granted
53 07/07/2020 Rec'd 5 copies of the ATB back from CSD
54 07/10/2020 APPELLEE BRIEF View
55 07/10/2020 APPELLEE APPENDIX
56 07/14/2020 Rec'd 5 copies of AEB and 4 copies of AEA back from CSD
57 07/17/2020 Rec'd $24.00 for for 48 pages over 100 on Appendix (receipt # 27780)
58 07/24/2020 REPLY BRIEF View
59 07/28/2020 Rec'd 5 copies of RYB back from CSD
60 08/13/2020 NOTICE OF ORAL ARGUMENT SENT
61 09/17/2020 APPEARANCES: Michael Waller; Dale Schowengerdt; Steven Lautt; John Carroll; Grant Davis
62 09/17/2020 ARGUED: Dale Schowengerdt; Grant Davis
63 09/17/2020 ORAL ARGUMENT WEBCAST