A railroad switch carrier sued a railroad operator alleging that the operator took advantage of its position as a majority shareholder in a joint venture to force the joint venture company to agree to a contract with atrocious and unfair terms. The switch carrier alleged that the contract forced the joint venture company to pay 3.5x the fair market value of rent for use of railroad tracks, as well as turn over its assets to the railroad operator. The plaintiff sued, but the district court found that the company’s claims were preempted by federal statutes. On appeal, the 7th Circuit found that the plaintiff had failed to develop several of the arguments that it advanced in the district court. The appellate panel found that there was no excuse for this error because the plaintiff and defendant were both sophisticated litigants. The panel determined that the plaintiff had waived its arguments as a result.
Canadian Pacific Railway owns 49% of Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Company while Consolidated Rail Corporation owns 51%. Two other defendants, Norfolk Southern Corporation and CSX Corporation, indirectly own Consolidated Rail. Norfolk Southern and CSX each control two directors on Indiana Harbor’s seven-person board. Indiana Harbor operates as a switch carrier on tracks owned by Consolidated Rail and its parent companies near Chicago.
The railroads managed their arrangement with a 99-year contract executed in 1906 between Indiana Harbor and the previous owners of the tracks. Though the agreement expired in 2006, for seven years between 1999 and 2006, Consolidated Rail stopped paying expenses and invoicing Indiana Harbor for rent. This quid pro quo cessation lasted through the expiration of the agreement and into the extended negotiations over a new trackage rights contract. Continue reading ›