Grogg v. Csx Transp., Inc., Cause No. 1:07-CV-222.

Decision Date14 September 2009
Docket NumberCause No. 1:07-CV-222.
Citation659 F.Supp.2d 998
PartiesLynford GROGG, Plaintiff, v. CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Indiana

Jeffrey E. Chod PHV, Patrick S. O'Brien PHV, O'Brien Chod LLC, St. Louis, MO, Thomas A. Manges, Roby & Manges Law Firm, Fort Wayne, IN, for Plaintiff.

James R. Carnes, Anspach Meeks Ellenberger LLP, Toledo, OH, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM C. LEE, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on the motion for summary judgment filed by the defendant, CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX") on May 26, 2009. Docket at 48. The plaintiff, Lynford Grogg ("Grogg") filed a response in opposition to the motion on June 25, 2009 (docket at 53) and CSX filed a reply on July 13, 2009 (docket at 54). For the reasons discussed herein, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Grogg was employed by CSX from 1968 until 2007. He began his long career with the railroad as a clerk, but spent most of his years as a road conductor, which meant he road trains over the railroad rather than working in a rail yard. The last 15 years of Grogg's career were split between working on the CSX "Chicago super-pool or the Lima pool." Defendant's Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defendant's Memorandum"), docket at 49, p. 2. "The Chicago super-pool was a priority train that traveled between Willard, Ohio, and Chicago without any stops in between. The job was generally `step on step off' of the train, with two days on then two days off." Id. "During the winter months, [Grogg] worked the Lima pool. The Lima pool was 93 miles by rail, `Garrett to Lima, and then you usually hop in a cab and come home, or take a cab down and get on a train and come back.'" Id. (quoting Grogg Deposition, pp. 56-57). According to CSX, [t]he majority of [Grogg's] time was spent in a locomotive rather than walking. . . . [Grogg] last worked on October 31, 2007.7D7D Id.

In this lawsuit, Grogg asserts that "during the course and scope of his employment as a conductor for defendant, plaintiff was seriously injured while riding on defective locomotives on rough and defective track and was forced to work on large, oversized ballast that did not meet the size specifications of defendant." Complaint, p. 2. Grogg maintains that his "injuries and damages are painful, permanent, progressive and disabling" and have impaired his ability to work both presently and in the future. Id., p. 3. More specifically, Grogg's alleged injuries include degenerative disc disease in his back and osteoarthritis in his right knee. Plaintiff's Response and Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Plaintiff's Response"), docket at 52, p. 5. He brought the present action seeking damages under the Federal Employers Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C § 51 et seq.

CSX argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on Grogg's claims because "(1) there is no evidence of defective locomotives or defective track in this case, other than Plaintiff's speculation; (2) Plaintiff's claims are precluded by superseding federal law; and (3) there is no evidence of causation." Defendant's Memorandum, p. 1.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the record shows 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Disputes concerning material facts are genuine where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In deciding whether genuine issues of material fact exist, the court construes all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See id. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505. However, neither the "mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties," id., 477 U.S. at 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, nor the existence of "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), will defeat a motion for summary judgment. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir.2000).

Summary judgment is not a substitute for a trial on the merits nor is it a vehicle for resolving factual disputes. Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir.1994). Therefore, after drawing all reasonable inferences from the facts in favor of the non-movant, if genuine doubts remain and a reasonable fact-finder could find for the party opposing the motion summary judgment is inappropriate. See Shields Enterprises, Inc. v. First Chicago Corp., 975 F.2d 1290, 1294 (7th Cir.1992); Wolf v. City of Fitchburg, 870 F.2d 1327, 1330 (7th Cir.1989). But if it is clear that a plaintiff will be unable to satisfy the legal requirements necessary to establish his or her case, summary judgment is not only appropriate, but mandated. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Ziliak v. AstraZeneca LP, 324 F.3d 518, 520 (7th Cir.2003). A failure to prove one essential element "necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

The party seeking summary judgment on a claim on which the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial may discharge its burden by showing an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548. A plaintiff's self-serving statements, which are speculative or which lack a foundation of personal knowledge, and which are unsupported by specific concrete facts reflected in the record, cannot preclude summary judgment. Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 246 F.3d 927, 933 (7th Cir.2001); Stagman v. Ryan, 176 F.3d 986, 995 (7th Cir.1999); Slowiak v. Land O'Lakes, Inc., 987 F.2d 1293, 1295 (7th Cir.1993).

DISCUSSION
1. Motion for Summary Judgment for Lack of Evidence.

The FELA provides, in relevant part, as follows:

Every common carrier by railroad while engaging in commerce between any of the several states or Territories, . . . shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce, . . . for such injury or death resulting 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.

45 U.S.C. § 51. The language of the statute is broad, covering any injury sustained by a railroad employee if that injury was caused "in whole or in part from the negligence of" the carrier. It is not necessary for a plaintiff in a FELA action to prove that his injuries were the sole result of the carrier's negligence—only that such negligence played "any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury. . . ." Rogers v. Missouri Pacific Railroad Co., 352 U.S. 500, 506-07, 77 S.Ct. 443, 1 L.Ed.2d 493 (1957). At the same time, it is not enough for a FELA plaintiff to simply raise the specter that some sort of negligence on the part of a railroad company caused his injuries. Rather, he must still meet the burden of establishing the common law principles of negligence apply, i.e., duty, breach, causation, and damages. Adams v. CSX Transp., Inc., 899 F.2d 536, 539 (6th Cir. 1990).

The relaxed standard of proof required of plaintiffs in FELA actions is well established and has been discussed in detail by the Seventh Circuit:

It's true that the FELA makes the railroad liable for "injury or death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence" of the railroad or its employees, 45 U.S.C. § 51 (emphasis added), and this has been interpreted to mean that the railroad is liable if "the proofs justify with reason the conclusion that employer negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury or death for which damages are sought." Rogers v. Missouri Pacific R.R., 352 U.S. 500, 506, 77 S.Ct. 443, 1 L.Ed.2d 493 (1957) (emphasis added); see also Walker v. Northeast Regional Commuter R.R., 225 F.3d 895, 897 (7th Cir.2000). "The fact that there may have been a number of causes of the injury is . . . irrelevant as long as one cause may be attributable to the railroad's negligence." Heater v. Chesapeake & Ohio Ry., 497 F.2d 1243, 1246-47 (7th Cir. 1974). A concurring opinion in the Sorrell case suggests that Congress's only purpose in specifying "in whole or in part" was to make clear that a railroad would be liable if it was negligent even if the injured worker had been much more negligent. Norfolk Southern Ry. v. Sorrell, supra , 127 S.Ct. [799], at 810-11 [166 L.Ed.2d 638 (2007)].

Coffey v. Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter R. Corp., 479 F.3d 472, 476 (7th Cir.2007). Likewise, the statute's very broad remedial nature is also well established. As the Seventh Circuit has explained:

The intent of the FELA is to provide broad remedial measures for railroad employees. Walker v. Northeast Regional Commuter R.R. Corp., 225 F.3d 895, 897 (7th Cir.2000); Williams v. National R.R. Passenger Corp., 161 F.3d 1059, 1061 (7th Cir.1998); Fulk v. Illinois Central R.R. Co., 22 F.3d 120, 124 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 870, 115 S.Ct. 193, 130 L.Ed.2d 125 (1994). A railroad will thus be held liable if the employer's negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury. Walker, 225 F.3d at 897; Williams, 161 F.3d at 1061; Fulk, 22 F.3d at 124. A plaintiff's burden in an FELA action is therefore significantly lighter than it would be in an ordinary negligence case. Williams, 161 F.3d at 1061; Fulk, 22 F.3d...

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