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STRYKOWSKI v. NORTHEAST ILLINOIS REGIONAL COMMUTER

June 17, 1993

JOHN STRYKOWSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTHEAST ILLINOIS REGIONAL COMMUTER RAILROAD CORPORATION, d/b/a METRA/METROPOLITAN RAIL, ("METRA"), Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MILTON I. SHADUR

 John Strykowski ("Strykowski") has filed a two-count personal injury Complaint against his employer Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation d/b/a METRA/Metropolitan Rail ("METRA" or "NIRC"), asserting claims under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51. Strykowski is a security officer for METRA, and both of his injury claims stem from off-the-rails work:

 
Count I P 5 alleges that on April 13, 1990 Strykowski was on office duty in METRA's Randolph Street, Chicago station and:
 
Plaintiff was reporting for duty to the supervisor. While plaintiff was at said place the telephone rang. At that time plaintiff was the only one present, and under defendant's rules he was required the [sic] answer the phone. There was a chair with casters at the desk where the phone rang, and when plaintiff attempted to sit down on the chair to answer the phone, the chair suddenly and unexpectedly rolled away and out from under him, causing him to miss the seat and fall onto his back on the tile flooring. The flooring was slippery and there was no non-skid pad under the chair to keep it from rolling. Plaintiff was caused to be injured.
 
Count II P 5 alleges that on August 23, 1991 Strykowski was again at the Randolph Street station--this time on security patrol--and:
 
It was reported to plaintiff by commuters that a man was sleeping on the floor in the South Shore waiting area of the Randolph Street Station and was impeding prospective passengers. Thereupon, it was the plaintiff's duty to investigate the complaints, and he went to the South Shore area waiting room where he awakened the person who was sleeping on the floor for the purpose of averting the blocking of passengers in the waiting area. The person sleeping on the floor upon being awakened became abusive to plaintiff and assaulted the plaintiff and wrestled him to the floor causing plaintiff to be injured. When the said person started the assault the plaintiff radioed for back-up to his headquarters, but radio communications system was inoperative and back-up was not available to him in the course of the assault upon him, which could have been averted if radio communications system had been operative, and plaintiff could have avoided injury if he had received back-up assistance. The incident related herein occurred in the late evening hours which is and was a critical time for public disturbance so the defendant should have provided two-man security patrols to control assaults and assist officer who is attacked.

 METRA's Answer denied subject matter jurisdiction, and this Court of course immediately inquired into the grounds for its having done so. *fn1" It developed that the jurisdictional challenge was far from boilerplate, and both sides have submitted memoranda addressing the relevant issues. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, both the Complaint and this action are indeed dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

 FELA's 45 U.S.C. § 51 states a two-part test for coverage: It is essential that the employer be a "common carrier by railroad while engaging in commerce between any of the several States," and it is also necessary that the employee be injured "while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce." As to that second component, the statute goes on to provide an expansive definition:

 
Any employee of a carrier, any part of whose duties as such employee shall be the furtherance of interstate or foreign commerce; or shall, in any way directly or closely and substantially, affect such commerce as above set forth shall, for the purposes of this chapter, be considered as being employed by such carrier in such commerce and shall be considered as entitled to the benefits of this chapter.

 METRA's Activities

 METRA is engaged exclusively in providing intrastate commuter rail service. Here its counsel's description of its structure and operation based on the expected testimony of its Director of Contract Management James Burcham (D. Mem. 1-3):

 
NIRC is an Illinois public corporation that operates five Commuter railroads under a Purchase of Service Agreement with the commuter Rail Division (CRD) of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).
 
The Regional Transportation Authority is a unit of local government and a municipal corporation. The RTA was created to provide for, aid and assist public transportation in the northeastern area of the State of Illinois. The RTA accomplishes these purposes through three Service Boards: The Commuter Rail Division, the Suburban Bus Division and the Chicago Transit Authority.
 
The Commuter Rail Division of the RTA is responsible for providing public transportation by railroad in the northeastern area of the State of Illinois. Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 111 2/3, Para. 701.02(c). CRD owns five intrastate commuter railroads: Metra Electric which runs from Chicago, Illinois to 91st Street, and University Park, Illinois; Metra Heritage Corridor which runs from Chicago, Illinois to Joliet, Illinois; Metra Milwaukee District North Line which runs from Chicago, Illinois to Fox Lake, Illinois; Metra Milwaukee District West Line which runs from Chicago, Illinois to Big Timber Road, Illinois; and the Rock Island District which runs from Chicago, Illinois to Joliet, Illinois. Under the agreement between NIRC and CRD, NIRC operates the railroads which includes maintaining the tracks, employing all personnel, ...

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