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Arrington v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 5, 2017





         Before this Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation (“Defendant” or “Amtrak”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, which seeks the dismissal of the negligence and Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) claims asserted against it by Plaintiff Annie E. Arrington (“Plaintiff”). [ECF 26]. Plaintiff has opposed the motion. [ECF 27]. The issues presented in the motion for summary judgment have been fully briefed by the parties and are ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated herein, the motion for summary judgment is granted.


         On December 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant essentially averring that she suffered injuries while a passenger on an Amtrak train traveling between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Rocky Mount, North Carolina. [ECF 1]. In her complaint, Plaintiff asserts that while moving from one handicap-designated seat to another at the direction of an Amtrak conductor, the train underwent a sudden jerk which caused her to fall in the aisle and sustain various injuries. Plaintiff contends that her fall and resultant injuries were caused by Defendant's negligence and that Defendant's conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, in that Plaintiff was discriminated against and/or denied services on account of her disability.

         On November 16, 2016, Defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment. As is required at the summary judgment stage, this Court will consider all relevant evidence and the reasonable facts and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, here, Plaintiff. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255-56 (1986); Todish v. Cigna Corp., 206 F.3d 303, 305 (3d Cir. 2000). These facts are summarized as follows:[1]

On February 28, 2014, Plaintiff was a passenger on an Amtrak train traveling from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Rocky Mount, North Carolina. (Ex. B, 30:2-21; Def.'s Ex. A, Amtrak Ticket). At the time she purchased her ticket, Plaintiff identified herself as “mobility impaired, ” (Def.'s Ex. A, Amtrak Ticket), due to back and knee problems and the need for a cane to walk. (Ex. C, 39:1-7). According to Plaintiff, she “didn't need the cane continuously, only when [she] was having problems.” (Ex. C, 14:6-8).
When boarding, Plaintiff was directed to a handicap-designated seat. (Ex. B, 43:13-18). Though a “red cap” carried her cooler and directed Plaintiff to her seat, Plaintiff was able to board the train without assistance. (Ex. B, 39:14-40:6). Plaintiff did not use or need her cane to walk to her seat. (Ex. B, 43:9-12).
At some point between Delaware and Baltimore, a conductor advised Plaintiff and others who were seated in the same handicapped section that because they would be disembarking at Rocky Mount, North Carolina, they were seated in the wrong car and would need to move to a different car. (Ex. B, 55:1-7; 56:11-15; 57:2-5). Plaintiff told the conductor that she could not walk while the train was moving. (Ex. B, 57:16-19). The conductor responded by telling Plaintiff that she could remain in her seat until the train reached Baltimore. (Ex. B, 57:20-25; Ex. C, 18:1-2). According to the conductor, the train would stop for approximately five minutes. (Ex. B, 58:10-13; 61:23-62:3). While the train was still in motion, the conductor took Plaintiff's cooler to her new seat in another car, (Ex. B, 59:6-8), and the other passengers seated in the same handicapped section began to move to their new seat locations without assistance. (Ex. B, 59:9-60:3). Plaintiff remained seated and watched the other passengers walk toward the new seat location and exit the train car that Plaintiff then occupied. (Ex. B, 60:24-61:4). Plaintiff did not request any assistance from an Amtrak employee in changing seat locations, (Ex. B, 63:13-15), and declined the assistance offered by another passenger. (Ex. B, 64:25-65:8).
Q. Immediately before the incident occurred, were you talking to anybody?
A. There was a young lady going to the bathroom.
Q. Okay.
A. She saw me get up to leave and asked if I needed help, and I told her no, but she said, well, I'll walk behind you anyway. So she was right in back of me when I fell. (Ex. B, 64:25-65:8).
Rather than waiting until the train came to a complete stop in Baltimore, as she was advised she could, Plaintiff got up from her seat as the train was slowing down and began to move to her new seat location in another train car. (Ex. B, 62:13-22; 63:19-20; 76:6-10). While Plaintiff was moving to her new seat, the train came to a stop and then “jerked, ” causing her to fall. (Ex. B, 64:10-24). Plaintiff described the jerk as “hard” and “long.” (Ex. B, 96:10-19). She was unaware whether anyone else or any items on the train fell. (Ex. B, 96:20-97:13).
After lying on the floor for several minutes and then sitting in a nearby seat, Plaintiff “walked back through the coach to where I was going to be seated.” (Ex. B, 74:10-75:1). She did not ask for or receive any assistance in moving to her new seat. (Ex. B, 75:8-14; 101:3-8). Her new seat was also in a handicap section of the train. (Ex. B, 105:24-25).
After the train reached Plaintiff's destination in North Carolina, Plaintiff walked down the aisle to the exit on her own without any assistance. (Ex. B, 111:14-20). She also walked unassisted to the baggage cart to pick up her checked luggage, and through the parking lot to her vehicle. (Ex. B, 112:12-20; 113:5-8). “Mrs. Arrington was able to drive herself home.” (Pltf's Brief, at p. 10). On the day of the incident, Plaintiff did not report her fall to anybody. (Ex. B, 108:10-12).
About one week after the accident, Plaintiff sought treatment at the emergency room of the Halifax Memorial Hospital for pain in her left shoulder. (Ex. B, 130:8-131:7). Plaintiff drove herself in her truck to the emergency room. (Ex. B, 130:19-25). No one accompanied her to the hospital. (Ex. B, 131:1-2). Plaintiff was diagnosed with an injury to her right elbow and a herniated disc. (Pltf.'s Ex. 13 and 14).
Before her fall, Plaintiff claims to have had a very active daily routine. She ...

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