OMAHA, Neb. – A federal judge dismissed a dispute April 1 between Union Pacific and Idahoan Foods over a 2009 derailment the railroad claimed was caused by dehydrated mashed potato product.
A motion filed earlier by the companies’ attorneys in U.S. District Court in Omaha requested the dismissal but did not give an explanation. Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis declined to comment on whether a settlement was reached. Idahoan Foods’ attorney Justin High called it an “amicable resolution.”
The Omaha-based railroad sued Idahoan Foods LLC in October, claiming the company’s workers caused a February 2009 derailment at its North Platte rail yard by neglecting to clean dehydrated mashed potato product off of the wheels of some freight cars. The lawsuit was initially filed in state court but later transferred to federal court.
Union Pacific was seeking nearly $242,000 in damages.
Lewisville, Idaho-based Idahoan Foods makes dehydrated potato flakes that the company says rival the taste of homemade mashed potatoes, but the flakes apparently aren’t as easy to transport as whole potatoes. Union Pacific said in its lawsuit that potato flakes stuck on the wheels of railcars loaded by Idahoan Foods rendered the rail yard’s braking system ineffective before the derailment.
At Union Pacific’s North Platte rail yard, workers use two hills to break apart some of the more than 150 trains that pass through the yard every day. After the cars are pushed up the hills, workers break apart the train and allow gravity to send railcars rolling onto a new track to join a train headed to their destination.
The railroad said in its lawsuit that Idahoan knew before the derailment that it needed to clean the wheels of its railcars before handing them over to Union Pacific.
Union Pacific is the nation’s largest railroad and operates 32,400 miles of track in 23 states from the Midwest to the West and Gulf coasts.