Rail & Transportation Law

With more than a century committed to counseling Pennsylvania’s Rail and related Transportation industries on matters such as litigation, public utility law, and real estate, the attorneys at Nauman Smith have been long recognized as authorities in this vital practice area.

The core of our representation centers on the rail industry, both Class I and short line railroads, where Nauman Smith has been involved in every major area of rail litigation and regulatory activity. Nauman Smith has continuously represented railroads since the firm’s beginnings in the 1870s.


Nauman Smith attorneys represent Class I, regional and shortline railroads in all types of litigation, including:

  • Employee claims under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA)
  • Crossing accidents
  • Trespasser and property damage suits

We have represented clients in the trial courts of approximately 26 counties in Pennsylvania and successfully argued cases on behalf of the rail industry before the Commonwealth, Superior, and Supreme Courts of Pennsylvania, as well as the Middle and Eastern Districts of Pennsylvania and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Key cases include:

  • Successful representation of a Class I railroad in a unanimous decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reaffirming the occupied crossing rule as a complete bar to recovery and finding for the first time Pennsylvania’s blocked crossing statute pre-empted under Federal Rail Safety Act. Krentz v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 910 A.2d 20 (Pa. Supreme Ct.).
  • Successfully represented a Class I railroad in obtaining judgment as a matter of law at trial in a FELA case affirmed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Castro v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 46 F. 3d 1115 (3rd Cir.).
  • Successfully represented a Class I railroad in summary judgment of a trespasser rendered a paraplegic. Barry v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 1999 WL 554598 (E.D. Pa.)
  • Represented a Class I railroad against the City of Philadelphia in a contract dispute in federal court over park access rights that led to a favorable negotiated settlement for the railroad.
  • Numerous defense verdicts in crossing accident wrongful death cases.

Public Utility Law

In rail-highway crossing and related matters, in which the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) has regulatory jurisdiction, our attorneys have represented clients in:

  • Complex crossing abolition proceedings
  • Bridge and at-grade crossing reconstruction
  • Repair proceedings
  • Application proceedings initiated by governmental entities to establish new at-grade crossings

We advise clients on complex PUC proceedings, which often implicate operational as well as safety matters. Frequently, cases which begin before the PUC, require representation in other Courts on related aspects including:

  • Federal injunction actions
  • State court proceedings to enforce contracts
  • Board of View proceedings in condemnation actions by PennDOT
  • Rail line abandonment proceedings before the federal Surface Transportation Board

Key cases include:

  • Successfully represented a railroad in a case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirming that contract rights are preserved between the parties even when the PUC orders payment in the first instance for rail-highway crossing work contrary to the contract. Consolidated Rail Corporation v. City of Harrisburg and the Harrisburg Authority, 842 A.2d 369 (Pa. Supreme Ct.).
  • Represented Class I Railroads and the Keystone State Railroad Association in rulemaking and streamlining proceedings in the Public Utility Commission.
  • Prevented the establishment of a new at-grade crossing in York County on the basis that creation of a new at-grade crossing in close proximity to two separated-grade crossings would not promote public safety. Application of Springettsbury Township, 2009 WL 3159625 (Pa. PUC).
  • Successfully represented railroads in numerous rail crossing abolition and reconstruction cases, minimizing client work and cost responsibilities.
  • Successfully represented railroad clients in condemnation proceedings brought by PennDOT.