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NORRIS v. BURLINGTON NORTHERN SANTA FE

April 4, 2003

ADOLPH NORRIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BURLINGTON NORTHERN SANTA FE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David H. Coar, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Adolph Norris ("Norris") brings this one-count complaint against Defendant Burlington Northern Santa Fe ("BNSF") under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51, et seq., alleging that BNSF negligently failed to provide Norris with safe tools and equipment while he worked as a Machinist for Burlington.*fn1 Before this Court is BNSF's motion for summary judgment. Concurrently before this Court is BNSF'S motion to strike plaintiff's response to defendant's statement of material facts. For the following reasons, this Court DENIES BNSF'S motion to strike and DENIES its motion for summary judgment.

Motion to Strike

As a preliminary matter, this Court addresses BNSF's motion to strike Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Statement of Material Facts BNSF argues that this Court should strike Norris's Response because it is in improper form, unresponsive, and evasive. After reviewing Norris's Response, however, this Court disagrees. First, it is important to note that BNSF's Statement of Facts consists often numbered paragraphs. Norris admitted the first six paragraphs and denied the last four. In support of his denials, Norris cited to his Additional Statement of Material Facts, which in turn cites to the record. Thus, while Norris did not cite directly to the record in his Response, this Court finds that, because the paragraphs in his Additional Statement to which he cites are supported by the record, his Response should not be stricken on that ground.

Further, while it is BNSF's opinion that Norris's denials are unresponsive or evasive, this Court finds that his denials are on point. For example, paragraph 7 of Defendant's Statement of Facts states "The work activity which led to plaintiff's injury did not occur at the Cicero yard." Norris denies this statement and cites in part to the affidavit of his attending physician, Dr. Basel Al-Aswad, which states that "the pathology in his right is related to trauma that has accumulated from his work over the last 21 years." BNSF argues that Norris should have admitted this statement because he stated in his deposition that the injury did not occur at Cicero. Norris's deposition reveals, however, that Norris stated that the work to which he was referring — "change brake shoes outside" — when he filled out an "Employee Personal Injury Occupation Illness Report" occurred at the 14th Street yard. Thus, in viewing the record in a light most favorable to Norris, this Court does not find his denials unresponsive; BNSF's motion to strike Norris's Response is denied. The Court stresses, however, that it will disregard statements of fact by either party that are not supported by the record or that are mere legal conclusions. See Johnson v. Indopco, Inc., 887 F. Supp. 1092, 1095 (N.D. Ill. 1995); see also Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 922 (7th Cir. 1994) ("[D]istrict courts are not obliged in our adversary system to scour the record looking for factual disputes. . . .").

Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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); Kamler v. H/N Telecom. Serv's., Inc., 305 F.3d 672, 677 (7th Cir. 2002). A genuine issue of material fact exists for trial when, in viewing the record and all reasonable inferences drawn from it in a light most favorable to the non-movant, a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Fritcher v. Health Care Serv's. Corp., 301 F.3d 811, 815 (7th Cir, 2002).

The movant bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Hedberg v. Indiana Bell Tel. Co., 47 F.3d 928, 931 (7th Cir. 1995). If the movant meets this burden, the non-movant must set forth specific facts that demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Rule 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. A scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is insufficient, and the non-movant "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. Weighing evidence, determining credibility, and drawing reasonable inferences are jury functions, not those of a judge deciding a motion for summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

Background

The following facts are taken from the parties Local Rule 56.1 materials. Norris began working at Burlington in 1977 as a laborer. For two years, Norris worked as a machine apprentice at the Cicero yard. For eighteen and one half years, Norris worked at the 14th Street yard, which was located at 432 W. 14th Street in Chicago, Illinois. Norris was a relief supervisor in the Mechanical Department for nine and one half years, and he later became a permanent supervisor for two years in that department.

Early in 1997, Norris was suspended from employment for that year. He returned to work at the Cicero yard in early 1998. Until his return in 1998, Norris had not worked in the Cicero yard for almost eighteen years.

On January 26, 1999, Norris submitted an "Employee Personal Injury Occupation Illness Report" in which he reported "swelling and pain in the right knee." In that report, Norris attributed that injury to "working on right knee" because his job required him to kneel on a concrete platform to change brake shoes outside, which occurred at the 14th Street yard. While performing this work, Norris did not complain to his supervisors at the 14th Street yard about having to kneel, squat, or otherwise overuse his knees on the job. Norris, however, complained to his supervisors on occasion that the brake arm and/or brake head were not working properly and that they needed to be replaced before changing the brake shoes. According to Clarence Clanton ("Clanton"), who was one of Norris's supervisors at the 14th Street yard, the brake arm and head were not defective. Clanton asserts that BNSF complied with the Rules of the Federal Railroad Administration in determining when a part needed replacing.

Norris contends that, during the course of his 21 years of employment at BNSF, he worked in conditions at Cicero and the 14th Street yard that involved squatting or repetitive bending of the knees. He asserts that this work was done outside on the ground, under extreme conditions, and without proper kneepads. Clanton contends that knee pads were available to every employee at the 14th Street yard to assist them in performing their job functions.

According to the "Employee Personal Injury Occupation Illness Report" Norris submitted on January 26, 1999, he first experienced symptoms of his knee injury on November 15, 1998. On December 4, 1998, he received his diagnosis from Dr. Al-Aswad that "the pathology in his right is related to trauma that has accumulated from his work over the last 21 years." Norris states that he has ...


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