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Brian Crompton v. Bnsf Railway Company

September 26, 2012

BRIAN CROMPTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, 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 BNSF Railway Company's ("BNSF") motion for summary judgment (Doc. 26). Plaintiff Brian Crompton ("Crompton") filed a response (Doc. 33), to which BNSF replied (Doc. 39). For the following reasons the Court denies BNSF's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 26).

I. Summary Judgment Generally

Summary judgment is proper where "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 moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396.

In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996). A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of "some alleged factual dispute between the parties," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Michas, 209 F.3d at 692. Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if "a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; accord Michas, 209 F.3d at 692. With this standard in mind, the Court will next consider whether BNSF is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

II. Facts

Crompton, a 34-year old railroad conductor, worked for BNSF for nearly ten years at the time the unfortunate accident at issue occurred. Crompton arrived at worked on April 24, 2011, in Centralia, Illinois, where he and an engineer travelled to Paducah, Kentucky, by car for the purpose of bringing a General Electric AC 4400 locomotive from Paducah to Centralia. Just twenty-five miles south of Marion, Illinois, at Nielson Junction, Crompton attempted to operate a switch. Crompton exited the front locomotive, and positioned himself on the top or second step of the locomotive with his hands on the rails. In his deposition, Crompton recalled that he closed and latched the exterior or front cab door after exiting the locomotive. Soon thereafter, the exterior or front cab door flew open and knocked Crompton from the moving locomotive to the ground. Crompton suffered severe injuries as a result.

In his response to BNSF's motion for summary judgment, Crompton attached the deposition of Francis Ferry ("Ferry"). Ferry, a BNSF machinist, was sent to inspect the locomotive in question after the accident. Ferry testified that the latch on the locomotive cab door, when properly operating, was meant to keep the door closed; however, if it does come unlatched, it can create unnecessary danger or injury to crew members. Once the door is properly closed, Ferry affirmed the only way the door can come open is if the handle became unlatched.

Crompton also attached the affidavit of Bruce Yancey ("Yancey"), a locomotive engineer with BNSF. Yancey recalled several instances in which he had ridden on either this same model locomotive or similar model General Electric locomotives when the front cab or exterior door came open on its own without being opened or operated by a crew member. . . .

Doc. 33-3, p. 2. He further claimed that "these are common problems that are found on [General Electric] AC 4400 locomotives." Id. Yancey asserted that "BNSF and its company management are aware that the exterior or front cab doors and latches come open" improperly, and was present when company managers discussed this matter. Id. at 3. Also, prior to the incident in question, Yancey said he attended a safety meeting "that was called and conducted by BNSF company management due to another employee's injury caused by a locomotive's front door coming unlatched and opening." Id. Lenny Perry, another locomotive engineer with BNSF, similarly attested in his deposition that the front cab or exterior door on this model of locomotive had come open several times without being opened by a crew member, and that company management was aware of this problem.

On May 23, 2011, Crompton filed his two-count complaint alleging violations of the Federal Employer's Liability Act ("FELA") and the Locomotive Inspection Act ("LIA"). Thereafter, BNSF filed its motion for summary judgment alleging that Crompton had not produced sufficient information to support either of his claims, and BNSF was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. First, the Court will consider whether BNSF is entitled to summary judgment on Crompton's FELA claim.

ANALYSIS

I.FELA Claim

The FELA ...


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