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ZARECKI v. AMTRAK

January 25, 1996

JUDY A. ZARECKI, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, d/b/a AMTRAK, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CASTILLO

 RELEVANT FACTS

 The following undisputed facts are gleaned from the parties' respective Local Rule 12(M) statements of material facts and accompanying exhibits. *fn1"

 Zarecki began working for Amtrak as a reservation sales agent on November 1, 1983. Her duties included answering phones, checking schedules and routes, and making reservations. Like most modern day ticketing agents, Zarecki used a personal computer, an accompanying computer keyboard, and a phone headset with a microphone so that her hands were free to operate the keyboard. Zarecki performed these tasks while seated in an adjustable chair.

 Zarecki has worked full time during her approximate twelve years at Amtrak. During each eight-hour work day, Zarecki had two scheduled breaks, one eighteen minute break and another forty-eight minute break for lunch. In addition, she was free to take a break and use the washroom, water fountain or coffee machine.

 Although Zarecki did complain to fellow employees about her working conditions at Amtrak, she did not complain to any supervisor before she was first diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Zarecki specifically testified that she never complained to anyone at Amtrak about her working conditions before 1994 except for fellow workers. (Zarecki Dep. at 113-16 ). She did, however, complain to her supervisor in 1994.

 Zarecki was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome in 1992. *fn2" (Zarecki Dep. at 62). Zarecki first tried to alleviate her pain by taking medication, but eventually decided to undergo surgery in 1994 upon the suggestion of her physician. (Id. at 100). She returned to work without restrictions in August of 1994.

 Zarecki contends that Amtrak caused her condition in one or more of the following ways: (1) failing to provide safe equipment and work space; (2) failing to provide proper work methods to avoid the repetitive nature of the work; (3) failing to provide proper training; (4) failing to properly supervise; and (5) failing to warn of the possibility of acquiring carpal tunnel syndrome. (Complaint P 6).

 Ridyard found that the number of keystrokes (per hand) per minute of a reservation sales agent at Amtrak was approximately 7 to 8, which is equivalent to approximately two words per minute. To assess this factor, Ridyard recorded the number of keystrokes during one-minute observations of twelve different sales representatives who were randomly selected. Ridyard also found that the sales agents could maintain their wrists in a neutral position, meaning that they were not bent significantly in any direction. None of the conditions that adversely affect a computer operator's ability to maintain neutral wrist positions, such as desks and chairs that are at an improper height, existed at the Chicago Amtrak facility. Indeed, Zarecki admits that she was able to keep her hands in a neutral position. (Pl.'s Facts P 10). Finally, Ridyard found that the keyboards could be operated with low finger forces. (See Def.'s Ex. D, Ridyard Report).

 Ridyard's expert report, which is uncontroverted, presents an evidentiary hurdle that Zarecki must overcome in order to survive Amtrak's motion for summary judgment. However, instead of presenting her own expert testimony regarding risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome present at Amtrak's workstations, Zarecki relies almost exclusively on an affidavit by her treating physician, Dr. Farrell, to defeat Amtrak's motion for summary judgment. *fn3" Because of the paramount importance of Dr. Farrell's affidavit to Zarecki's efforts to survive Amtrak's motion, we quote it in its entirety:

 1. I have been retained as an expert witness with respect to the above entitled cause on behalf of the Plaintiff, Judy Zarecki.

 2. I make this Affidavit in opposition to the Defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation's ...


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