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Monheim v. Union Railroad Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 24, 2014

LYDIA MONHEIM, Administratrix of the ESTATE OF ANDREW MONHEIM, Deceased, Plaintiff,

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For LYDIA MONHEIM, Administratrix of the ESTATE OF ANDREW MONHEIM, Deceased, Plaintiff: Lawrence A. Katz, Coffey Kaye Myers & Olley, Pittsburgh, PA; Michael J. Olley, PRO HAC VICE, Coffey Kaye Myers & Olley, Bala Cynwyd, PA.

For UNION RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant: David B. White, LEAD ATTORNEY, Burns White LLC, Pittsburgh, PA; Stephen A. Hall, Burns, White & Hickton, Pittsburgh, PA; William J. Donovan, Burns White, Pittsburgh, PA.



Joy Flowers Conti, Chief United States District Judge.

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A wrongful death action was brought in this case pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51-60 (" FELA" ), because the decedent, Andrew Monheim (" Monheim" ) died as a result of injuries sustained from a collision that occurred while he operated a locomotive on behalf of Union Railroad Company (the " Railroad" ). Lydia Monheim, administratrix of the estate of her deceased husband (referred to herein as the " Estate" ), seeks to recover monetary damages.

The Railroad filed a motion for summary judgment, (ECF No. 152), in which it contends that the Estate failed to produce sufficient evidence in support of its negligence claim, and challenges the legal viability of several of the Estate's damages claims. The Railroad filed a brief in support of the motion, (ECF No. 153), a concise statement of material facts, (ECF No. 154), and a reply brief, (ECF No. 158). The Railroad filed a response to the Estate's motion and concise statement of facts, (ECF Nos. 161 and 163), and an opposition brief (ECF No. 162). Although the parties submitted a joint concise statement of material facts, (ECF No. 164), it is not in the format requested by the court, and, therefore, at times, pertinent factual references must be made to the Railroad's statement of material facts and the Estate's response thereto (ECF Nos. 154 and 163, respectively).

For the reasons that follow, the Railroad's motion is granted with respect to the Estate's claim that configuring the locomotive operated by Monheim short-nose forward violated the FELA. The motion is denied, however, with respect to the Estate's claim that the Railroad violated the FELA by assigning Monheim to the operational locomotive alone on the night of the collision. A jury must determine whether the Railroad acted negligently under the FELA in doing so. A jury must also determine whether, and what amount of, damages should be awarded to the Estate based upon Monheim's conscious pain and suffering, and Monheim's son's loss of his father's care, counseling, and training. The court finds, however, that the latter category of damages will expire on the date that Monheim's son reaches the age of majority, due to a lack of evidence of special circumstances.


All material facts set forth herein are undisputed unless otherwise indicated. All disputed material facts are construed in

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favor of the Estate, the nonmoving party. Additional material facts may be discussed elsewhere in this memorandum opinion, in context.

This case involves a side-swipe train collision that occurred at approximately 3:29 a.m. on March 16, 2010, when a train being operated by Monheim failed to stop at a red signal. (ECF No. 164 ¶ ¶ 1, 16.) At the time of the accident, Monheim, who was employed as a freight locomotive engineer by the Railroad, was operating a northbound freight train that was traveling from the Irvin Works rail yard to the Edgar Thompson rail yard, which is a distance of several miles, on mainline track through signal territory. (Id. ¶ ¶ 2, 7-9, 69.)

The train operated by Monheim had the work designation " 50C" and consisted of three locomotives, forty-one empty slab cars, and a caboose. (Id. ¶ ¶ 3-4, 14.) Monheim was in the operational locomotive, in a short-nose forward configuration, and the other three crew members were in the caboose. (Id. ¶ ¶ 5-6, 25; ECF Nos. 154 and 163 ¶ 80 (Estate's equivocation irrelevant).) When the 50C train left the Irvin Works yard, and at the time of the collision, the locomotive being operated by Monheim was the lead car, but the crew planned to switch to a " shove move," meaning that the caboose would become the lead car and the locomotives would push the train into the yard upon arriving at the Edgar Thompson yard. (ECF No. 164 ¶ ¶ 67, 74.)

The other train involved in the accident, which had the work designation " 76C", consisted of four locomotives, ninety cars filled with iron-ore, and a caboose. (Id. ¶ ¶ 10-12, 14.) Two employees were in the lead locomotive of the 76C train and two employees were in its caboose. (Id. ¶ 12.)

Monheim verbally communicated, via radio, with the Train Movement Director approximately nine minutes before the collision occurred and manipulated the throttle from position 4 to position 3 approximately seven minutes before the collision occurred. (Id. ¶ ¶ 17, 19; ECF Nos. 154 and 163 ¶ 78 (Estate's equivocation irrelevant).) Monheim's last known act was this throttle manipulation, and there is no evidence about what happened in the locomotive between that time and the time of the collision. (ECF No. 164 ¶ 21; ECF Nos. 154 and 163 ¶ 114 (Estate's equivocation irrelevant).) The locomotive operated by Monheim went past the red stop signal at Signal 112 at approximately 3:29:14 a.m. and came into contact with the 76C train less than twenty seconds later. (ECF No. 164 ¶ 22.) The train operated by Monheim traveled 163 feet past Signal 112, at approximately six miles per hour, before colliding with moving rail cars on the 76C train. (Id. ¶ ¶ 23-24, 81.) Monheim's body was located hours after the collision, buried in less than a foot of iron-ore pellets that had spilled out of one of the 76C train's cars after the crash. (Id. ¶ 172.)

The remaining legal claims at issue in this case are that the Railroad violated the FELA by: (1) not assigning an additional crewmember to be in the operational locomotive with Monheim; and (2) configuring the locomotive operated by Monheim long-nose forward instead of short-nose forward. (ECF No. 152-8.)


A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if the record shows that there is no genuine dispute with respect to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The mere existence of a factual dispute, however, will not necessarily defeat a motion for summary judgment. Only a dispute over a material fact -- that is, a fact that would affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law -- will preclude

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the entry of summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Even then, the dispute over the material fact must be genuine, such that a reasonable jury could resolve it in the nonmoving party's favor. Id. at 248-49.

In deciding a summary judgment motion, a court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must draw all reasonable inferences, and resolve all doubts, in favor of the nonmoving party. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255; Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007); Doe v. Cnty. of Centre, Pa., 242 F.3d 437, 446 (3d Cir. 2001); Woodside v. Sch. Dist. of Phila. Bd. of Educ., 248 F.3d 129, 130 (3d Cir. 2001); Heller v. Shaw Indus., Inc., 167 F.3d 146, 151 (3d Cir. 1999). A court must not engage in credibility determinations at the summary judgment stage. Simpson v. Kay Jewelers, Div. of Sterling, Inc., 142 F.3d 639, 643 n.3 (3d Cir. 1998).

One of the principal purposes of summary judgment is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The summary judgment inquiry asks whether there is a need for trial -- " whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 250. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court's function is not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but only to determine whether the evidence of record is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150-51, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000) (citing cases); Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248-49.

The burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists rests initially on the party moving for summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Aman v. Cort Furniture Rental Corp., 85 F.3d 1074, 1080 (3d Cir. 1996). The moving party may satisfy its burden either by producing evidence showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact or by demonstrating that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 295 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325). A defendant who moves for summary judgment is not required to refute every essential element of the plaintiff's claim; rather, the defendant must only point out the absence or insufficiency of plaintiff's evidence offered in support of one or more those elements. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. Once the movant meets that burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to " set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial" and to present sufficient evidence demonstrating that there is indeed a genuine and material factual dispute for a jury to decide. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 247-48; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-25. If the evidence the nonmovant produces is " merely colorable, or is not significantly probative," the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249.

The nonmoving party must " do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). To survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must " make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential

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to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Furthermore, " [w]hen opposing summary judgment, the non-movant may not rest upon mere allegations, but rather must 'identify those facts of record which would contradict the facts identified by the movant.'" Corliss v. Varner, 247 F.Appx. 353, 354 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Port ...

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