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WALSH v. CONRAIL

April 9, 1996

JOHN F. WALSH
v.
CONSOLIDATED RAIL CORPORATION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PADOVA

 Padova, J.

 April 9, 1996

 Plaintiff, John F. Walsh, filed a complaint against his former employer, Consolidated Rail Corporation ("Conrail"), under the Federal Employers Liability Act, 45 U.S.C.A. §§ 51-60 (West 1986 & Supp. 1995) ("FELA"), alleging Conrail's negligence caused him to suffer a stroke. Conrail now moves, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), for summary judgment. For the following reasons, I will deny Conrail's Motion.

 I. FACTS

 Walsh works as a train conductor for Conrail. On July 16, 1993, after a twelve hour shift, Walsh checked into a hotel in Newark, New Jersey. Later that night, Conrail phoned Walsh's hotel room to call him back to work. Shortly after the call, Walsh suffered a stroke. According to Walsh, Conrail knew, as early as 1991, that he suffered from hypertension. In spite of this physical impairment, Conrail continued to assign Walsh to stressful jobs, the exigencies of which were beyond his physical capacity. This allegedly aggravated his condition and increased the likelihood that he would suffer a stroke.

 II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

 When confronting a motion for summary judgment in a FELA case, the Court does not apply the usual standards articulated in Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The non-moving party can defeat a motion for summary judgment by presenting only a "minimum amount of evidence" in opposition to the motion; "[a] trial court is justified in withdrawing issues from the jury's consideration only in those extremely rare instances where there is a zero probability either of employer negligence or that any such negligence contributed to the injury of an employee." Hines v. Consol. Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 262, 268 (3d Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). FELA imposes a stringent duty of care. "Slight negligence, necessary to support a FELA action, is defined as a failure to exercise great care, and that burden of proof, obviously, is much less than the burden of proof required to sustain recovery in ordinary negligence actions." Boeing Co. v. Shipman, 411 F.2d 365, 371 (5th Cir. 1969) (citation omitted). See Moody v. Maine Cent. R.R. Co., 823 F.2d 693, 695 (1st Cir. 1987) (recognizing "the considerably relaxed standard of proof in FELA cases"). The employer's negligence need not be great:

 
The test of a jury case is simply whether the proofs justify with reason the conclusion that employer negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury or death for which damages are sought . . . . Judicial appraisal of the proofs to determine whether a jury question is presented is narrowly limited to the single inquiry whether, with reason, the conclusion may be drawn that negligence of the employer played any part at all in the injury.

 Rogers v. Missouri Pacific R.R. Co., 352 U.S. 500, 506-507, 77 S. Ct. 443, 448-449, 1 L. Ed. 2d 493 (1957).

 III. DISCUSSION

 Conrail argues that Walsh has failed to produce any expert testimony indicating that the rigors of his work schedule caused his stroke. According to Conrail, Walsh's only evidence of negligence is that physicians, contracted by Conrail, qualified him to return to work on February 4, 1991, two years before his stroke. In support of its Motion, Conrail provided inter alia the following submissions: Walsh's Complaint; the "Expert Interrogatories Directed To Plaintiff;" a letter from Dr. Jerry Eric Goldstein, M.D. to Mr. Doran, Walsh's lawyer, discussing Dr. Goldstein's evaluation of Walsh's condition ("Goldstein Letter"); *fn1" and a transcript of Walsh's deposition. Walsh contends that the facts presented in the instant case invoke several possible theories of negligence, all of which illustrate that Conrail failed to provide a safe workplace. Walsh submits inter alia two Conrail "Requests for Medical Service and Medical Status Reports" dated February 4, 1991 and April 11, 1991 which qualify Walsh for work; a letter from Conrail's general attorney instructing that decisions on Walsh's qualification for employment should be made on a purely medical basis; the Goldstein Letter; and an affidavit signed by Dr. Goldstein reiterating his earlier conclusions.

 A. NEGLIGENCE

 45 U.S.C.A. § 51 subjects "common carriers by railroad" to liability in damages to employees suffering injury in the course of their employment when the injury resulted "in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier, or by reason of any defect or insufficiency, due to its negligence, in its cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, roadbed, works, boats, wharves, or other equipment." 45 U.S.C.A. § 51. The traditional common law negligence elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages apply in a FELA action. Capriotti v. Consol. Rail Corp., 878 F. Supp. 429, 431 (N.D.N.Y. 1995) (citations omitted). Viewing the ...


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