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Michael K. Rodman v. Csx Intermodal

November 5, 2010

MICHAEL K. RODMAN,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CSX INTERMODAL, INC., A CORPORATION,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, The Honorable Eileen M. Brewer, Judge Presiding. 07 L 4929

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Toomin

JUSTICE TOOMIN delivered the opinion of the court: Here, we consider whether an employer may be vicariously liable for the negligence of an employee that occurs while the worker is en route to "punching out," as directed by the employer. Plaintiff, Michael Rodman, was injured in a collision with an employee of defendant, CSX Intermodal, Inc., that occurred at the premises where the employee worked. The circuit court found that the employee was not acting within the scope of employment at the time of the collision and entered summary judgment for defendant. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

Adam Wielgosiak worked for CSX Intermodal (CSX) from May 1998 to June 2006, as an airman-tie-down employee. His responsibility as an airman was to ensure that the brakes on rail cars at the Bedford railyard terminal were within federal guidelines and functional. His duties as a tie-down worker were to ensure the trailers in the railyard were stored securely in the train hitches. Wielgosiak worked in the "ramp," the secured area of the yard that contained approximately 22 railroad tracks.

Wielgosiak worked the 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift. One of CSX's job requirements was that the employees had to clock in before starting their shifts and clock out when ending the shift. The time clock was located in the main building. Accordingly, upon arriving each work day at CSX's property, Wielgosiak would first enter the main building and punch in. Wielgosiak was required to punch out at 2:30 p.m. If he punched out any earlier, he would be subject to disciplinary action by CSX.

There was a smaller building about 30 yards west of the main building that had a lunchroom, locker room and bathrooms, with an adjacent parking lot for CSX workers. Wielgosiak regularly parked his car in the parking lot next to the smaller building. Upon finishing their shifts, the CSX workers routinely would go to the smaller building to change and clean up and then drive their personal vehicles to the main building to punch out. CSX's management had no rule or policy prohibiting the workers from punching out in that fashion. Notably, as plaintiff maintains, some CSX personnel actually directed the workers to park near the smaller building because the company frowned upon its employees filling the parking spaces by the main building.

Plaintiff was employed by a CSX subcontractor to repair ceiling tile in the main building. On June 4, 2005, plaintiff left his station in the main building and proceeded to his car in the parking lot. While returning to the building, as plaintiff crossed the lot, he was struck by Wielgosiak, who was driving to the main building to punch out for the day. Plaintiff sustained a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee, resulting in two surgeries. The accident occurred before Wielgosiak's 2:30 p.m. shift end time and he was still on the clock.

Thereafter, plaintiff commenced the instant cause of action for personal injuries. In turn, CSX filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Wielgosiak was not acting within the scope of his employment with CSX at the time of the collision. The circuit court granted the motion and plaintiff now appeals.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff maintains that the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment asserting that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether Wielgosiak was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Prevailing practice holds that summary judgment should be granted if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and *** the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West 2008). Summary judgment is to be encouraged in the interest of prompt disposition of lawsuits, but as a drastic measure it should be allowed only when a moving party's right to it is clear and free from doubt. Purtill v. Hess, 111 Ill. 2d 229, 240, 489 N.E.2d 867, 871 (1986). "Because the purpose of a summary judgment proceeding is to determine whether there are any genuine issues of triable fact [citation], a motion for summary judgment should be granted only when 'the pleadings, depositions, 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.' [Citation.]" Purtill, 111 Ill. 2d at 240, 489 N.E.2d at 871. When determining the existence of a genuine issue of material fact, the trial court should construe pleadings, depositions, admissions, exhibits, and affidavits strictly against the movant and liberally in favor of the respondent. Purtill, 111 Ill. 2d at 240, 489 N.E.2d at 871; 735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2008). In appeals from summary judgment rulings, our review is de novo. Williams v. Manchester, 228 Ill. 2d 404, 417, 888 N.E.2d 1, 9 (2008).

An unbroken line of precedent holds that summary judgment is generally inappropriate when scope of employment is at issue. Pyne v. Witmer, 129 Ill. 2d 351, 359, 543 N.E.2d 1304, 1308 (1989), (citing Dragovan v. City of Crest Hill, 115 Ill. App. 3d 999, 1001, 451 N.E.2d 22, 24 (1983), Metzler v. Layton, 373 Ill. 88, 93, 25 N.E.2d 60, 62 (1939), Kavale v. Morton Salt Co., 329 Ill. 445, 451-52, 160 N.E. 752, 754 (1928), Bonnem v. Harrison, 17 Ill. App. 2d 292, 298-99, 150 N.E.2d 383, 386 (1958), Becker v. Brummel, 319 Ill. App. 499, 503, 48 N.E.2d 419, 421 (1943), and 57 C.J.S. Master & Servant §617(a)(3) (1948)).

The principle engrafted in English common law subjected an employer to vicarious liability for his employees under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Bank of America, N.A. v. Bird, 392

Ill. App. 3d 621, 626, 911 N.E.2d 1239, 1243 (2009). The master was liable for the acts of his servant while the servant was carrying into effect the master's orders where the acts were for the good of the master and sufficiently within the course of employment. Turberville v. Stampe, 1 Salk. 13, 1 Ld. Raym. 264 (1698). See also W. Blackstone, Commentaries *418 ("If a servant by his negligence does any damage to a stranger, the master shall answer for his neglect *** But in these cases the damage must be done while he is actually employed in the master's service; otherwise the servant shall answer for his own misbehavior"). In adherence to this abiding principle, our supreme court has reaffirmed that Illinois courts look to the Second Restatement of Agency (the Restatement) for guidance in determining whether an employee's acts are within the scope of employment. Adames v. Sheahan, 233 Ill. 2d 276, 298-99, 909 N.E.2d 742, ...


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