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Randy K. Brenner v. Consolidated Rail Corp. and Csx Transportation

April 18, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joyner, J.


Presently before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants Consolidated Rail Corporation and CSX Transportation, Inc. (ECF No. 22). For the following reasons, the Motion shall be granted in part and denied in part.


Randy K. Brenner ("Plaintiff") has filed suit against his employers, Consolidated Rail Corporation ("Conrail") and CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSXT"), (collectively, "Defendants") under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. §§ 51-60. Plaintiff was employed as a trackman and machine operator by Defendant Conrail from April 1976 until June 1999, and by Defendant CSXT from June 1999 though the present.

On April 13, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that in the course of his employment on the railroad he "was exposed to excessive and harmful cumulative trauma to his knees due to the repetitive climbing, bending, stooping and walking on uneven or unleveled ballast." (Compl. ¶ 9, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff further alleges that he suffers from "occupational knee injuries as a result of repetitive occupational trauma to his knees, which required left knee surgery." (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff claims that his injuries were caused by Defendants' negligence in, among other things, failing to provide a safe place to work, failing to provide a timely and adequate ergonomics program, and failing to modify certain job duties in order to minimize the cumulative trauma. (Id. ¶ 12.)

Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 22) to which Plaintiff responded in opposition (ECF No. 27). Thereafter, Defendants filed a reply brief (ECF No. 29). The motion is now ripe for our disposition.


A. Summary Judgment

When a party files for summary judgment, "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).*fn2 In making a summary judgment determination, all inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). However, "[t]he party opposing summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the . . . pleading; its response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted). When the non-moving party is the plaintiff, he must "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to [his] case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).


The FELA "was passed in 1908 in an effort to provide a tort compensation system for railroad workers who, at that time, experienced among the highest accident rates in United States history." Hines v. Consol. Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 262, 267 (3d Cir. 1991). The FELA provides that a railroad operating in interstate commerce shall be liable to any employee who is injured during his employment if such injury or death result[ed] 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.

51 U.S.C. § 51. In furtherance of its humanitarian policy, courts have found that the FELA "has a more lenient standard for determining negligence and causation." Hines, 926 F.2d at 267. Indeed, "a FELA plaintiff need only present a minimum amount of evidence in order to defeat a summary judgment motion." Id. at 268 (citing Pehowic v. Erie Lackawanna R.R., 430 F.2d 697, 699-700 (3d Cir. 1970)). Despite the remedial nature of the act, however, the FELA is not a workers' compensation statute. Consol. Rail Corp. v. Gottshall, 512 U.S. 532, 543 (1994). The FELA "'does not make the employer the insurer of the safety of his employees while they are on duty. The basis of his liability is his negligence, not the fact that injuries occur.'" Id. (quoting Ellis v. Union Pac. R. Co., 329 U.S. 649, 653 (1947)).

Accordingly, to prevail on a claim under the FELA, a plaintiff must prove four elements: (1) the defendant is a common carrier by railroad engaged in interstate commerce; (2) the plaintiff was employed by the defendant and assigned to perform duties that furthered such commerce; (3) the injuries were sustained while the plaintiff was employed by the common carrier; and (4) the plaintiff's injuries resulted from the defendant's negligence. Felton v. Southeastern Pa. Transp. Auth., 952 F.2d 59, 62 (3d Cir. 1991).


Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on three grounds: (1) Plaintiff cannot succeed on the merits of his claims because he has no admissible expert evidence of causation; (2) Plaintiff's claims are time-barred; and (3) Plaintiff's claim that his knee injuries were caused by walking on ...

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