United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
R. Herndon United States District Judge.
the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant
Union Pacific Railroad Company (“Union Pacific”)
(Doc. 27). Union Pacific seeks judgment that it is not liable
under the Federal Employers' Liability Act
(“FELA”) for any of Plaintiff Larry Dean
Miller's (“Miller”) injuries. Miller opposes
defendants' motion (Doc. 31). For the following reasons,
defendants' motion is GRANTED.
January 21, 2015, plaintiff Larry Dean Miller, filed the
underlying FELA action against Union Pacific. In his
complaint, Miller claims that Union Pacific was negligent for
(a) failing to provide plaintiff with a safe place to work;
(b) failing to provide plaintiff with safe methods to perform
his work; (c) failing to provide plaintiff with sufficient
manpower; (d) failing to provide plaintiff with the proper
tools and equipment; (e) requiring plaintiff to work in
awkward positions; and (f) allowing these unsafe practices to
become common practice (Doc. 2).
alleges that on September 15, 2014, while employed by Union
Pacific, he sustained certain physical injuries when he fell
out of the bed of his pickup truck during an attempt to
retrieve a gas-powered impact wrench stored in the truck
The truck involved in the alleged incident was assigned to
Miller in 2013 by Union Pacific. The truck was brand new at
the time Miller received it (Doc. 28-1, pg. 4) and he
regularly drove the truck home at night.
retrieving the impact wrench on the date of the accident,
Miller slipped in spilled switch lubricator and fell out of
the truck. (Doc. 28-1, pg. 8). Miller testified that he used
the same truck the day before, and did not see the switch
lubricator spill (Id.). He testified that no one at
Union Pacific knew the lubricant spilled in the bed of the
truck, and there were no witnesses to the alleged incident.
(Id. at 6-7). Miller, himself, was unsure when the
lubricant spilled. (Id. at 23).
the close of discovery in this matter, defendants filed the
pending motion for summary judgment (Doc. 27). Defendants
move for summary judgment alleging that “plaintiff
failed to provide any evidence that Union Pacific was
negligent or caused his alleged injuries” (Doc. 28).
Miller's attorney then filed his response opposing the
motion (Doc. 31).
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is proper when the pleadings, discovery, and
disclosures establish that there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Winsley v. Cook Cnty., 563 F.3d 598,
602-03 (7th Cir. 2009); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322- 23 (1986). A
genuine issue of material fact exists if “the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Pugh v. City of Attica,
Indiana, 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th Cir. 2001); Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
assessing a summary judgment motion, the district court must
view the facts in the light most favorable to, and draws all
reasonable inferences in favor of, the non-movant. Scott
v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372 (2007); Fischer v. Avanade,
Inc., 519 F.3d 393, 401 (7th Cir. 2008); Delapaz v.
Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011).
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
establishing the absence of factual issues and entitlement to
judgment as a matter of law. Santaella v. Metro. Life
Ins. Co., 123 F.3d 456, 461 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). In response, the
non-moving party may not rest on bare pleadings alone, but
instead must highlight specific material facts to show the
existence of a genuine issue to be resolved at trial.
Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598
(7th Cir. 2000). The Court will enter summary judgment
against a party who does not “come forward with
evidence that would reasonably permit the finder of fact to
find in [its] favor on a material question.”
McGrath v. Gillis, 44 F.3d 567, 569 (7th Cir. 1995).
Law and Application
case, Miller alleges negligence on the part of Union Pacific
pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act
(“FELA”) based on his September 15, 2014 fall
from the bed of his work truck. FELA affords a “broad
federal tort remedy for railroad workers injured on the
job.” Crompton v. BNSF Ry. Co., 745 F.3d 292,
296 (7th Cir. 2014), citing Williams v. Nat'l R.R.
Passenger Corp., 161 F.3d 1059, 1061 (7th Cir. 1998).
Union Pacific argues that Miller failed to provide sufficient
evidence that Union Pacific's negligence caused
FELA, 45 U.S.C. § 51.
FELA, a railroad employer must provide its employees with a
reasonably safe place to work. Holbrook, 414 F.3d at
742; Williams, 161 F.3d at 1061. More specifically,
the FELA statute states that common rail carriers
“shall be liable in damages to any person suffering
injury while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce
... for such injury or death 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, works, boats, wharves,
or other equipment.” 45 U.S.C. § 51. However, FELA
does not “render a railroad an insurer of its
employees.” Holbrook, 414 F.3d at 742 (quoting
Consol. Rail Corp. v. Gottshall, 512 U.S. 532, 543
recover under FELA, a plaintiff must prove “the common
law elements of negligence, including foreseeability, duty,
breach, and causation, ” Fulk v. Illinois Cent.
R.R. Co., 22 F.3d 120, 124 (7th Cir.1994); see also
Crompton, 745 F.3d at 296. But a “relaxed
standard of causation applies under FELA.” CSX
Transp., Inc. v. McBride, 564 U.S. 685, 131 S.Ct. 2630,
180 L.Ed.2d 637 (2011). That is, railroads are liable if
their negligence “played any part, even the slightest,
in producing the injury.” McBride, 564 U.S.
685 at 687 citing Rogers v. Missouri Pac. R. Co.,
352 U.S. 500, 506 (1957). More simply put, a FELA plaintiff
must “proffer some evidence of the defendant's
negligence in order to survive summary judgment.”
Holbrook v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 414 F.3d 739, 742
(7th Cir. 2005); Lynch v. Northeast Regional Commuter
R.R. Corp., 700 F.3d 906, 911 (7th Cir. 2012). Here,
Miller cannot rely on speculation to take the place of proof.
Moore v. Chesapeake & O. R. Co., 340 U.S. 573,
establish a breach of that duty, the plaintiff must show
circumstances which a reasonable person would foresee as
creating a potential for harm. Williams, 161 F.3d at
1062. In addition, because liability is limited to those
dangers that are reasonably foreseeable, the plaintiff must
show that the employer had actual or constructive notice of
the condition. Id. 1062-63. Finally, the plaintiff
must show that the breach caused (but only in the minimal
sense required under FELA) the injury. Id.
Miller has not created a genuine issue as to Union
Pacific's negligence under FELA.
Pacific argues that Miller has not met his modest burden of
coming forward with any evidence showing that Union Pacific
was somehow negligent in allowing Miller to become injured.
However, Miller contends that it was Union Pacific's
negligence in providing an unsafe mobile workplace that
caused his fall; specifically, Miller claims that Union