United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
July 23, 2004.
RUSSELL W. MARANDO
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.
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
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).
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.,