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Dashner v. CSX Transportation

July 13, 2009

CHRIS L. DASHNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 28). Plaintiff Chris L. Dashner filed a Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 35), and Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. filed a Reply to Plaintiff's Brief Opposing Summary Judgment as to Count I of Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 36). For the following reasons, the Court DENIES the Motion.

BACKGROUND

I. Procedural Posture

On November 26, 2007, Plaintiff Chris L. Dashner filed this action against Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. under the Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. § § 51 et seq. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on August 28, 2008. Count I of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges that Dashner's back, neck, and right knee were injured while Dashner was working for CSX. Dashner alleges that these injuries occurred because he was required to stand or kneel on uneven surfaces while working with unsafe, heavy, awkward, vibrating, and torquing equipment. Count II of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiff's left fifth finger tip was crushed and amputated on August 10, 2005, while Plaintiff was attempting to close an unsafe door on a ballast car while working for CSX.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is rendered when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (c). The moving party must identify "a basis for its contention that no genuine issue of material fact exists." McGinn v. Burlington N. R.R. Co., 102 F.3d 295, 298 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Hughes v. Joliet Corr. Ctr., 931 F.2d 425, 428 (7th Cir. 1991)).Then, the non-moving party must "set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial" either through its own affidavits, or through depositions, other discovery materials, or admissions on file. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (e). The Court views "the record and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Williams v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 161 F.3d 1059, 1061 (7th Cir. 1998).

III. Facts

Because the record is viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the following facts are taken from the plaintiff's deposition testimony and affidavit. Dashner began his railroad career in 1981, when he went to work for Chessie System, which later consolidated into CSX Transportation. In December 1982, Dashner became an assistant track supervisor, which involved supervising the crews who built the railroad tracks. In addition to supervising, Dashner also helped build the tracks because frequently there were not enough crew members to complete the jobs. Dashner's job title changed from assistant track supervisor to assistant roadmaster in 1992, though the responsibilities were the same. As an assistant roadmaster, approximately fifty percent of Dashner's work day involved physical activity.

The tasks Dashner performed as assistant roadmaster were repetitive and strenuous. One task involved unloading ballast from hopper cars. Ballast consists of crushed rock (or similar materials) and is the foundation of the railroad track, while hopper cars are train cars that have back doors and collapsible undersides that facilitate rapid unloading of the ballast. Dashner and the crew members opened the underside of the hopper car, and then ballast would pour out from the hopper car as the car moved down the track. Dashner had to walk through the shifting and rolling ballast as it poured out of the hopper car. At the same time, Dashner climbed over piles of railroad ties that were left by the side of the tracks in the path of the unloading ballast. On more than one occasion, Dashner complained to his supervisors in charge of unloading the ties about where the ties were piled. Dashner asked for the piles to be placed farther from the track so that he and other employees could avoid climbing over them. His request was not granted, and he could not move them himself because there were so many.

Another strenuous activity Dashner performed was "cribbing," which involved removing mud from the railroad track and replacing it with ballast. To loosen the mud, Dashner used a pick; this task involved repetitive twisting of his body. Dashner used a pitchfork or shovel to remove the mud, and then threw ballast in to fill the holes where there had previously been mud. Sometimes, Dashner filled two buckets with ballast, and he would carry the buckets up and down the track while filling the holes. Combined, the buckets would weigh between 80 and 100 pounds. Dashner asked his supervisors for a backhoe to make the cribbing process easier, but he was told backhoes were not available.

In 1991, Dashner was promoted to the position of roadmaster, where he spent approximately 12 hours a week performing physical labor. Dashner continued to perform many of the tasks, including cribbing and track work, that he had performed as assistant roadmaster.In 2005, Dashner began experiencing severe pain in his neck, back, and right knee. Due to the pain, Dashner left CSX in September of 2005 because he felt he could no longer perform his duties.

ANALYSIS

Under FELA, "Every common carrier by railroad. . . shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier. . . for such injury. . . 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. . . or other equipment." 45 U.S.C. ยง 51. FELA was enacted to "provide broad remedial measures" to railroad employees. Walker v. Ne. ...


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