Eggers v. CSX Transp., 22A-CT-33

Citation22A-CT-33
Case DateSeptember 27, 2022
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Edward Eggers, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.

CSX Transportation, Inc., Appellee-Defendant.

No. 22A-CT-33

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 27, 2022


Pursuant to Ind. Appellate Rule 65(D), this Memorandum Decision shall not be regarded as precedent or cited before any court except for the purpose of establishing the defense of res judicata, collateral estoppel, or the law of the case.

Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable John Chavis, II, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49D05-1911-CT-48390

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT

W. Russell Sipes

Sipes Law Firm PC

Indianapolis, Indiana

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE

Sarah N. Dimmich

Shawna M. VanHook

Stuart & Branigin, LLP

Lafayette, Indiana

Carl J. Summers

Evan M. Tager

Mayer Brown

Washington, D.C.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

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Mathias, Judge.

[¶1] Edward Eggers appeals the Marion Superior Court's entry of summary judgment for CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX") on Eggers's complaint alleging negligence under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. §§ 51-60 (2022). Eggers raises a single issue for our review, namely, whether the trial court erred when it entered summary judgment for CSX. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2] Eggers began working for CSX in 2008. In December 2016, Eggers reported for work at CSX's Hawthorne Yard in Indianapolis. He was asked to place ice melt on track switches, which required driving the ice melt in a pickup truck to the switches, moving a five-gallon bucket that held the ice melt from the back of the truck to near the switch, and then spraying the switch.

[¶3] About two or three hours into this work, Eggers and a coworker arrived at one of the switches to spray ice melt on it. Eggers inspected the area around the bucket and noticed nothing unusual. He then began to lift the bucket of ice melt, but "the bucket came free" unexpectedly. Appellant's App. Vol. 2, p. 44. Eggers felt like he "pulled [a] muscle" in his left arm. Id. at 45. He mentioned to his coworker that his "arm didn't feel right," but he continued and completed his work for the day and did not inform a manager that he had been injured because he "didn't really think [he] was injured." Id. at 53.

[¶4] A few days later, Eggers noticed the pain in his left arm "getting worse" with "shooting pain" and numbness in his hand. Id. Eggers saw Dr. Ripley Worman at IU Health West Hospital. Dr. Worman diagnosed Eggers with carpal tunnel

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syndrome in his left wrist and cubital tunnel syndrome in his left elbow. Eggers subsequently had surgery on his left arm, which resolved his pain and caused him to miss a few months of work.

[¶5] Thereafter, Eggers sued CSX under FELA for damages related to the alleged workplace injury to his left arm. CSX moved for summary judgment and designated the deposition of Dr. Worman as evidence. In that deposition, Dr. Worman testified as follows:

A It just sounds to me like the bucket fell and his arm pulled
* * *
Q [by CSX's counsel:] And is it unlikely that this event caused either condition that Mr. Eggers had
* * *
A Either condition being carpal or cubital tunnel syndrome?
Q Yes.
A It is more likely than not that the symptoms were caused by something else than . . . a pulling injury like that.
Q And, Doctor, why do you say that?
A Because most times when we're talking about an injury causing cubital or carpal tunnel, it's a direct blow to the area around the cubital or carpal tunnel. It's stretching of the nerve
3
because of swelling or pressure. When the arm is pulled on, as described in . . . the patient's testimony, the nerve doesn't stretch that much in that sense to cause any kind of injury. And it's less likely to be that as opposed to something causing swelling around the nerve causing the compression.
* * *
. . . He was bringing a bucket down and he's not sure what happened but it pulled his arm. It's just not a typical mechanism for carpal or cubital tunnel syndrome to evolve from.
Q [by Eggers's counsel:] It's not typical but is it possible?
A Anything's possible, yes.
* * *
Q [by CSX's counsel:] . . . [O]ne last question. I know earlier you said that anything is possible as far as causes of Mr. Eggers'[s] condition, but would you say that it's unlikely caused by his work injury?
* * *
A The specific mechanism that we were discussing is unlikely to cause carpal and cubital tunnel syndrome requiring surgical intervention.

Appellant's App. Vol. 4, pp. 177-78, 180, 184-85. No other expert testimony relating to medical causation was designated by the parties. After a hearing, the trial court granted CSX's motion for summary judgment. This appeal ensued.

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Standard of Review

[¶6] Eggers appeals the trial court's entry of summary judgment for CSX. Although FELA establishes a federal cause of action, those actions may be adjudicated in state courts. Gouge v. N. Ind. Commuter Transp. Dist., 670 N.E.2d 363, 365 (Ind.Ct.App. 1996). When they are, federal substantive law governs the merits of the FELA claim, but state procedural rules govern the proceedings. Id. Indiana's procedural rules include our Trial Rules and our Rules of Evidence. Cf. Church v. State, 189 N.E.3d 580, 588-89 (Ind. 2022) ("th[e] power to make substantive law is exclusive to the General Assembly-our judicially created rules cannot abrogate or modify substantive law," and "a substantive right . . . can be conferred only by the Legislature, but the method and time of asserting such right are matters of procedure ....") (quotation marks and emphases removed).

[¶7] Indiana's appellate standard of review in summary judgment appeals is well established. As our Supreme Court has made clear,

[w]e review summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as the trial court: "Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of . . . the non-moving parties, summary judgment is appropriate 'if the designated evidentiary matter shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Williams v. Tharp, 914 N.E.2d 756, 761 (Ind. 2009) (quoting T.R. 56(C)). "A fact is 'material' if its resolution would affect the outcome of the case, and an issue is 'genuine' if a trier of fact is required to resolve the parties' differing accounts of the truth, or if the
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undisputed material facts support conflicting reasonable inferences." Id. (internal citations omitted).
The initial burden is on the summary-judgment movant to "demonstrate [ ] the absence of any genuine issue of fact as to a determinative issue," at which point the burden shifts to the nonmovant to "come forward with contrary evidence" showing an issue for the trier of fact. Id. at 761-62 (internal quotation marks and substitution omitted). And "[a]lthough the non-moving party has the burden on appeal of persuading us that the grant of summary judgment was erroneous, we carefully assess the trial court's decision to ensure that he was not improperly denied his day in court." McSwane v. Bloomington Hosp. & Healthcare Sys., 916 N.E.2d 906, 909-10 (Ind. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Hughley v. State, 15 N.E.3d 1000, 1003 (Ind. 2014) (omission and some alterations original to Hughley).

CSX's Designated Evidence Negated FELA's Element of...

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