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United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 23, 2004.


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


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).


  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.


  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).


  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 inspected on February 25, 2003 and found to be in safe working order at that time.

  In response, Marando contends that he does present evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude CSX had notice that the steps in question were dangerous. Marando testified that, after his fall, he inspected the plank that gave way and saw "the nails that came right out and popped right out. It just looked to me like [the wood was] just rotten." Russell Marando Dep. at 57 (Docket No. 8, Ex. A). Eileen Wolfe ("Wolfe"), another yardmaster, testified that the specific wood plank causing Marando's fall was loose and rocked from "back to front." Eileen Wolfe Dep. at 49-50 (Docket No. 13, Ex. B). Wolfe reported the loose plank to her supervisor. Moreover, in autumn 2002, as Wolfe stepped onto the second step from the ground of the staircase, the board flipped over entirely. Wolfe stated, "The nails weren't secure, and the board came up." Wolfe Dep. at 16. Wolfe again reported the incident to her supervisor but did not observe anyone repairing the steps. Furthermore, on February 25, 2003, the inspector, Arthur Levering ("Levering"), noticed that "the stringers [at the very bottom step] were starting to get a little spongy," that is, the stringers were soaking up water.*fn3 Arthur Levering Dep. at 26, 28 (Docket No. 13, Ex. A). Levering didn't make any repairs at the time because he thought the steps were still safe. However, Levering noted that the steps "require[d] repairs" on his building inspection form. Since then, Levering "has been up there a couple times and looked at it, and it still seemed to be okay." Levering Dep. at 41. Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Marando, genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether CSX had actual or constructive notice of the defects in the steps. Accordingly, this Court concludes that Marando has presented the minimal evidence necessary to defeat CSX's motion for summary judgment.


  For the reasons stated, Defendant's motion for summary judgment as to the Federal Employers' Liability Act is denied.

  Plaintiff has withdrawn his claims under the Federal Safety Appliances Act and the Federal Boiler Inspection Act. An appropriate Order follows. ORDER

  AND NOW, this day of July, 2004, upon consideration of 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), and for the reasons set forth in the accompanying Memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant's Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part as follows:

  1. Defendant's Motion as to Plaintiff's claim under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51-60, is DENIED; and

  2. By agreement of the parties, Plaintiff's claims under the Federal Safety Appliances Act, 49 U.S.C. § 20301 et seq., and the Federal Boiler Inspection Act, 49 U.S.C. § 20701 et seq., are DISMISSED.

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