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MARANDO v. CSX TRANSPORTATION

July 23, 2004.

RUSSELL W. MARANDO
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HERBERT HUTTON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the Court are Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 8), Plaintiff Russell Marando's response (Docket No. 11), Defendant's reply (Docket No. 13), and Plaintiff's sur-reply thereto (Docket No. 14).

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

  Plaintiff Russell Marando ("Marando") was employed by Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX") as a yardmaster at the Wilsmere Yard in Wilmington, Delaware. On June 2, 2003, Marando was injured as he exited his office and walked to the top landing of the adjacent wooden staircase leading to the parking lot. The piece of wood on the landing, closest to the steps, gave out and Marando fell, landing on his back, head, and arm. As a result, Marando sustained injuries to his lower back, shoulder, neck, and wrists.

  On October 23, 2003, Marando initiated this suit against CSX, pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51-60, for personal injuries sustained in his fall.*fn2 Marando alleges that his injuries were caused by CSX's negligence in its failure to provide a safe place to work. On March 26, 2004, CSX filed the instant motion for summary judgment.

  II. LEGAL STANDARD

  Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of showing the basis for its motion. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the movant adequately supports its motion pursuant to Rule 56(c), the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to go beyond the mere pleadings and present evidence through affidavits, depositions, or admissions on file showing a genuine issue of material fact for trial. See id. at 324. The substantive law determines which facts are material. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, then there is a genuine issue of material fact. See id.

  When deciding a motion for summary judgment, all reasonable inferences are drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 912 (1993). Moreover, a court may not consider the credibility or weight of the evidence in deciding a motion for summary judgment, even if the quantity of the moving party's evidence far outweighs that of its opponent. See id. Nonetheless, a party opposing summary judgment must do more than just rest upon mere allegations, general denials, or vague statements. See Trap Rock Indus., Inc. v. Local 825, 982 F.2d 884, 890 (3d Cir. 1992).

  III. DISCUSSION

  The Federal Employers' Liability Act "was passed in 1908 in an effort to provide a tort compensation system for railroad workers who, at the time, experienced among the highest accident rates in United States history." Hines v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 262, 267 (3d Cir. 1991). The statute was designed to shift some of the "human overhead" of doing business from employees to employers. Consol. Rail Corp. v. Gottshall, 512 U.S. 532, 542 (1994) (quoting Tiller v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 318 U.S. 54, 58 (1943)). Courts have construed FELA liberally in order to accomplish its remedial goal; however FELA is not a workers' compensation statute. Id. at 543.

  Under FELA, every railroad engaging in interstate commerce is liable in damages to any employee injured during his employment when: such injury . . . result[ed] in whole or in part from the [railroad's] negligence . . . 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. § 51; see Thomas v. Reading, Blue Mountain and N.R.R. Co., No. 01-5834, 2003 WL 21949156, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 14, 2003); Porreca v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., No. 98-4137, 1999 WL 199806, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 7, 1999). The employee must show "that the employer, with the exercise of due care, could have reasonably foreseen that a particular condition could cause injury." Thomas, 2003 WL 21949156, at *2 (citations omitted). The employee must also show that the employer had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazardous condition. Id. Whether the employer had actual or constructive knowledge of an alleged hazardous condition is determined by the jury. See id.; Urie v. Thompson, 337 U.S. 163, 178 (1949).

  The negligence and causation elements of a FELA claim are judged by a lower standard on summary judgment. See Williams v. CSX Transportation, Inc., No. 01-3433, 2002 WL 31618455, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 15, 2002). Specifically, a "FELA plaintiff need only present a minimum amount of evidence in order to defeat a summary judgment motion." Porreca, 1999 WL 199806, at *2; see Hines, 926 F.2d at 268; see also Pehowic v. Erie Lackawanna R.R. Co., 430 F.2d 697, 699-700 (3d Cir. 1970) ("A trial court is justified in withdrawing [FELA] 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."). A jury question of causation exists when there is "evidence that any employer negligence caused the harm, or, more precisely, enough to justify a jury's determination that employer negligence had played any role in producing the harm." Hines, 926 F.2d at 167 (emphasis in original).

  In this case, CSX argues that it had no notice that the steps in question were unsafe. CSX maintains that Marando had used the steps on numerous occasions, including the day of the incident, and did not have any problems with the steps or the landing. Further, CSX notes that the steps were ...


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