United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
SHELDON W. CARMON Plaintiff,
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.
RICHARDSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. No. 30). Plaintiff has filed a Response (Doc.
No. 39), Defendant has filed a Reply (Doc. No. 41), and with
the Court's permission (Doc. No. 46), Defendant has filed
a Sur-Reply (Doc. No. 47).
Carmon filed this action pursuant to the Federal Employers
Liability Act (“FELA”), 45 U.S.C. §§
51-60. In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was
employed by Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc.
(“CSXT”), which is a common carrier operating
railroads throughout the Southeast. Plaintiff asserts that he
was a welder and welder helper for Defendant and was injured
in the course and scope of his employment on December 6,
2016. He claims that he was at Ekin control point north of
Nashville, near Madison, Tennessee, walking south on the east
side of the Number 2 Main Line, at which point he tripped on
a signal wire that was partially above ground but not
visible. Plaintiff alleges that he fell over the signal wire
and sustained serious, painful and permanent injury to his
neck area, resulting in permanent disability. Plaintiff sued
Defendant for negligence under FELA.
judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “By its very terms,
this standard provides that the mere existence of
some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no
genuine issue of material fact.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
247-48 (1986). In other words, even if genuine, a factual
dispute that is irrelevant or unnecessary under applicable
law is of no value in defeating a motion for summary
judgment. See Id. at 248. On the other hand,
“summary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a
material fact is ‘genuine[.]'” Id. A
fact is “material” within the meaning of Rule
56(c) “if its proof or disproof might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing substantive
law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A genuine
dispute of material fact exists if the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party. Harris v. Klare, 902 F.3d 630, 634-35 (6th
party bringing the summary judgment motion has the initial
burden of identifying portions of the record that demonstrate
the absence of a genuine dispute over material facts.
Pittman v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 901
F.3d 619, 627-28 (6th Cir. 2018). If the summary judgment
movant meets that burden, then in response the non-moving
party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial. Id. at 628.
asserting that a fact cannot be or genuinely is
disputed-i.e., a party seeking summary judgment and a party
opposing summary judgment, respectively-must support the
assertion by citing to materials in the record, including,
but not limited to, depositions, documents, affidavits or
declarations. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). The court should view
the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
non-moving party. Pittman, 901 F.3d at 628.
Credibility judgments and weighing of evidence are improper.
Hostettler v. College of Wooster, 895 F.3d 844, 852
(6th Cir. 2018). As noted above, where there is a genuine
dispute as to any material fact, summary judgment is not
appropriate. Id. The court determines whether
sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of
fact a proper jury question. Id. The mere existence
of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving
party's position will be insufficient to survive summary
judgment; rather, there must be evidence upon which the jury
could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Rodgers v.
Banks, 344 F.3d 587, 595 (6th Cir. 2003).
was specially enacted by Congress to afford relief to
employees from injury incurred in the railway industry.
Seto v. CSX Transp. Inc., Civil No. 3:15-cv-1135,
2017 WL 4556723, at * 7 (M.D. Tenn. July 6, 2017) (citing
Edsall v. Penn Cent. Transp. Co., 479 F.2d 33, 35
(6th Cir. 1973)). FELA provides that every railroad
common carrier engaged in interstate commerce 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. 45 U.S.C. § 51.
FELA does not impose a duty to eliminate all workplace
dangers; instead, it requires railroads to provide their
employees with a reasonably safe workplace. Gilreath v.
CSX Transp., Inc., No. 6:16-cv-96, 2018 WL 737607, at *
4 (E.D. Ky. Feb. 6, 2018).
order to recover damages under FELA, a plaintiff must show
that: (1) he was injured while in the scope of his
employment; (2) which employment was in furtherance of the
railroad's interstate transportation business; (3) his
employer was negligent; and (4) his employer's negligence
played some part in causing the injury for which he seeks
compensation. Seto, 2017 WL 4556723 at * 8. To show
that the employer is liable for negligence, the employee must
prove the traditional common law elements of negligence-duty,
breach, foreseeability, and causation. Id. An
essential element of a plaintiff's FELA negligence claim
is that the injury he sustained was reasonably foreseeable to
the defendant. CSX Transp. v. McBride, 564 U.S. 685,
703 (2011); Beamer v. CSX Transp., Inc., No.
3:10-cv-472, 2014 WL 12588330, at * 3 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 31,
2014). To overcome a motion for summary judgment based on
foreseeability of harm, a plaintiff must present evidence
sufficient to give rise to a reasonable inference that the
defendant “knew or should have known that it was not
acting adequately to protect its employees.”
Id.; Williams v. Grand Trunk Western R.R.,
Inc., 352 Fed.Appx. 13, 17 (6th Cir. 2009). In other
words, a railroad has breached its duty when it “knew,
or by the exercise of due care should have known, that
prevalent standards of conduct were inadequate to protect
employees.” Gilreath, 2018 WL 737607, at * 4.
Thus, if a person has no reasonable ground to anticipate that
a particular condition would or might result in a mishap and
an injury, then the party is not required to do anything to
correct the condition. McBride, 564 U.S. at 703.
establish liability under FELA, a plaintiff must also prove
that the railroad's negligencewas “in whole or in
part the cause of the injury.” Gulliver v. National
R.R. Passenger Corp., No. 16-cv-2219, 2019 WL 2613214,
at * 2 (D. D.C. Apr. 25, 2019) (quoting Ellis v. Union
Pac. R. Co., 329 U.S. 649, 653 (1947)) But a relaxed
standard of causation applies, under which a railroad is
deemed to have caused or contributed to a railroad
worker's injury if the railroad's negligence played a
part-no matter how small-in bringing about that injury.
McBride, 564 U.S. at 705. The test is “whether
the proofs justify with reason the conclusion that employer
negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing
the injury” for which damages are sought. Sapp v.
CSX Transp., Inc., No. 3-09-0581, 2010 WL 4055951, at *
11 (M.D. Tenn. Oct. 15, 2010).
contends that Defendant was negligent in laying the signal
wire, failing to provide Plaintiff with a safe place to work,
and failing to adequately maintain and inspect the work area
and signal wire. Defendant first asserts that Plaintiff has
no evidence that CSXT negligently installed the signal wire.
Defendant argues that with no evidence of how or when CSXT
installed the wire, Plaintiff cannot show that it was
negligently installed. Defendant has shown that Plaintiff
took no discovery relevant to the signal wire's
installation and has presented no factual support for this
argument. Defendant has carried its initial burden on this
Response, Plaintiff states only that the signal wire
“had been installed by the signal department of CSXT,
” a fact undisputed by Defendant. Although he later
alleges that “[t]here is evidence in the record that
CSXT negligently installed the signal wire by leaving it
above ground” (Doc. No. 39 at 3), Plaintiff cites
nothing in the record for that assertion. Plaintiff also
alleges that “there is evidence in the record that
defendant CSXT created the condition” (Id. at
4), but again he cites nothing in the record for that
assertion. Plaintiff has not identified when or how the
installation was conducted, by whom, or in what way the
installation was negligent. Plaintiff has failed to point to