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Snyder v. BNSF Railway Co.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

September 28, 2019

MATTHEW SNYDER, Plaintiff,
v.
BNSF RAILWAY CO., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Jonathan E. Hawley U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is the Defendant, BNSF Railway Company's, supplemental motion for summary judgment (D. 38) and the Plaintiff, Matthew Snyder's, response thereto (D. 39)[1]. For the reasons stated, infra, the motion is granted.

         I

         A

         Snyder suffered an injury in a car accident necessitating a below-the-knee amputation. Snyder filed suit against his employer, BNSF, alleging that when he tried to return to work, BNSF refused to accept his doctors' notes and unnecessarily delayed his return because of his disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-213.

         The Court previously granted summary judgment in favor of BNSF on all of Snyder's claims, save one.[2] (D. 24). Specifically, the Court held that there was a disputed material issue of fact concerning whether BNSF's requests for (1) Snyder's hospital discharge summary after his initial accident treatment and (2) Snyder's primary care physician's notes of his office visits during his recovery violated 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(4)(A), which prohibits inquiries regarding the nature and severity of an individual's disability unless such inquiries are job-related and consistent with business necessity. Although the Court acknowledged that the medical inquiry claim constituted a “change in legal theory” (D. 24 at ECF p. 9), the Court went on to sua sponte consider the merits of this claim without full briefing on the issues by the parties.

         Thereafter, BNSF filed a motion for leave to file a supplementary motion for summary judgment, arguing that because Snyder first made his change in legal theory in his response to BNSF's motion for summary judgment, the parties did not have an opportunity to adequately brief the merits of the issue. (D. 31). More specifically, BNSF argued that the parties should be allowed to brief a legal question not addressed in the original summary judgment order, to wit: whether Snyder must demonstrate a cognizable injury-in-fact before recovering damages for a violation of § 12112(d)(4). According to BNSF, allowing supplemental briefing served the interests of judicial efficiency, for BNSF would make the same argument at trial as a ground for judgment as a matter of law. (D. 31 at ECF p. 7).

         Over Snyder's objection, this Court granted in part BNSF's motion for leave to file a supplemental summary judgment motion on the issue of whether Snyder must suffer a cognizable injury-in-fact in order to recover on his remaining claim. (Minute Entry of 9/12/2019). The Court agreed that, given the issue would need to be addressed at some point, it made the most sense to address the issue before conducting a jury trial on the issue. The Court, however, declined to revisit the Court's finding that a question of fact existed regarding whether the two medical inquiries in question violated the statute.

         B

         In BNSF's supplemental motion for summary judgment, BNSF argues that a plaintiff cannot recover damages based solely on a claimed violation of § 12112(d)(4), but rather must also demonstrate a tangible injury-in-fact. (D. 38 at ECF p. 18). More specifically, it argues that there must be some cognizable injury-in-fact of which the violation is a legal and proximate cause for damages to arise from a violation of § 12112(d). Based on the undisputed facts in this case, Snyder has not established a tangible injury-in-fact sufficient to survive summary judgment. Id.

         Snyder responds that the invasion of his privacy which is concomitant with the improper medical inquires is alone sufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment. However, even if the invasion of privacy alone is insufficient, Snyder argues that he has presented sufficient evidence to establish an injury-in-fact. Specifically, he argues that BNSF's refusal to reinstate Snyder until he produced the at-issue medical records delayed his return to work and, accordingly, he suffered a loss in wages. (D. 39 at ECF p. 5). Second, a reasonable fact finder could infer that the improper medical inquiries contributed to him resigning, thus deterring him from working for BNSF. Id. at 6. Third, he argues that a reasonable person could find that having to produce his private medical information to his employer embarrassed him and caused him to suffer stress and that such embarrassment and stress is a cognizable injury. Id. Finally, he argues a reasonable person could find that Snyder expended time and money obtaining the at-issue records from his doctors to provide to his employer and that the loss of his time and money is a cognizable injury.

         II

         A

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). At summary judgment, the court's function is to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial-that is, whether there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Patel v. Allstate Ins. Co., 105 F.3d 365, 370 (7th Cir. 1997). As such, “summary judgment is the ‘put up or shut up' moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of events.” Gekas v. Vasiliades, 814 F.3d 890, 896 (7th Cir. 2016) (quotation marks omitted). The court must view the ...


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