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Lander v. ABF Freight Systems

May 7, 2010

BERT C. LANDER, PLAINTIFF
v.
ABF FREIGHT SYSTEMS, INC., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Rambo

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is Defendant ABF Freight Systems, Inc.'s ("ABF") motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 23.) For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

I. Background

A. Facts*fn1

Plaintiff Bert C. Lander was an employee at ABF, and its predecessor company, from 1973 until 2007, when he was placed on medical release. (Statement of Undisputed Facts, Doc. 23-3 ¶¶ 4, 24.) In November of 1975, Lander was hurt on the job and had to undergo surgery. (Id. ¶ 6.) Ever since this accident, Lander has had medical limitations on how much he can lift, as well as other physical limitations. (See Lander Aff., Doc. 26-2.) Lander had provided ABF with various documents over the year outlining his physical limitations. (Id. ¶ 12.)

Beginning in 1995, and continuing until December of 2006, Lander worked for ABF as a combination driver/dockworker. (Statement of Undisputed Facts, Doc. 23-3 ¶ 7.) At the time Lander was let go, his work duties included dock work, jockeying, local driving, and deliveries.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 10.) According to ABF's job description, a combination driver/dockworker must be able to lift over forty-five pounds.*fn3 (Id. ¶ 12.) Every employee at ABF's Baltimore terminal, where Lander worked, and who was in Lander's union is classified as a combination driver/dockworker. (Id. ¶ 13.)

On December 7, 2006, Lander was examined by a Dr. K. Nicholas Pandelidis. (Id. ¶ 15.) Dr. Pandelidis determined that Lander should have the following work restrictions: no lifting over forty pounds, no lifting over forty pounds repetitively, limited pushing or pulling over forty pounds, and only occasional bending, twisting or stooping. (Id.) On December 11, 2006, ABF received a copy of Lander's medical restrictions. (Id. ¶ 16.) Lander was informed that, due to his medical restrictions, he was no longer able to receive work assignments. (Id.) Per Lander's union's policy, ABF and Dr. Pandelidis then agreed on a neutral, third-party doctor who would evaluate Lander. On August 3, 2007, this doctor determined that Lander should be restricted from lifting more than fifty pounds, and that he was at "maximum medical improvement." (Id. ¶ 23.)

B. Procedural History

On July 30, 2008, Lander filed his complaint alleging violations of the American's with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA"). (Doc. 1.) On February 16, 2010, ABF filed a motion for summary judgment and brief in support. (Doc. 23.) Lander filed his opposition brief on March 10, 2010, (Doc. 26), and ABF replied on March 24, 2010, (Doc. 27). The motion is now ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper when "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); accord Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. at 248. The court must resolve all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in favor of the non-moving party. Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232; see also Reeder v. Sybron Transition Corp., 142 F.R.D. 607, 609 (M.D. Pa. 1992).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a disputed issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Upon such a showing, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to present "specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The nonmoving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in its complaint; instead, it must "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324 (internal quotations omitted); see also Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (citations omitted). Summary judgment should be granted where a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. "'Such affirmative evidence -- regardless of ...


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