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Mccormick v. The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Commission

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 24, 2017

TROY MCCORMICK
v.
THE NEW ORLEANS PUBLIC BELT RAILROAD COMMISSION

         SECTION: “J” (4)

          ORDER & REASONS

          CARL J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         There are two motions for summary judgment before the Court. First is the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Commission's (“Defendant”) Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's 2013 Injury (R. Doc. 16). Second is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's 2014 Injury (R. Doc. 17). Plaintiff, Troy McCormick, filed oppositions (R. Docs. 20, 21) to Defendant's motions. Having considered the motions and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motions should be DENIED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This is a railroad worker's personal injury action. Plaintiff alleges he suffered two separate injuries as a result of Defendant's negligence. He argues that Defendant failed to provide him with a reasonably safe place to work in violation of the Federal Employer's Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51, et seq. (“FELA”), and further alleges that Defendant violated the Federal Safety Appliance Act, 49 U.S.C. § 20301, et seq. (“FSAA”).

         Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a railroad switchman. His responsibilities generally included connecting and disconnecting (“coupling” or “uncoupling”) railcars from each other. In March of 2013, Plaintiff was performing a railroad switch operation and alleges that he suffered injuries when a fence near his work area collapsed on him. Plaintiff alleges that when the fence collapsed it trapped his left hand against the railcar which proceeded to move forward. Although Plaintiff freed his hand, he alleges he suffered extensive injuries that required him to undergo surgery. Plaintiff asserts that this injury was a result of Defendant failing to provide him with a reasonably safe place to work in violation of the FELA.

         Plaintiff also alleges that in June 2014 defective rail equipment caused injuries to his left shoulder and bicep. In short, Plaintiff alleges that one of Defendant's employees attempted to uncouple two railcars unsuccessfully, which caused Plaintiff to have to uncouple the cars from the other railcar. While Plaintiff successfully uncoupled the cars, Plaintiff alleges he injured his left shoulder and ruptured his left bicep and had to undergo surgery. Plaintiff asserts that these injuries were a result of Defendant violating a federal safety statute and failing to provide him with a safe place to work in violation of the FSAA and the FELA.

         On March 4, 2016, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant. On March 25, 2017, Defendant filed the present motions for summary judgment. Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot prove that it was negligent or that its negligence caused Plaintiff's injuries. Further, Defendant argues that to the extent that Plaintiff asserts claims under the FSAA, Plaintiff did not plead a FSAA claim in his complaint, and that the alleged violation of the FSAA did not cause Plaintiff's injury. Plaintiff argues that both of his injuries were a direct result of Defendant's negligence, and that his complaint properly alleges a claim under the FSAA. Defendant's motions are now before the Court, without oral argument.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “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 movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, a court considers “all of the evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated assertions. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. A court ultimately must be satisfied that “a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party “must come forward with evidence which would ‘entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.'” Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir. 1991). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by either countering with sufficient evidence of its own, or “showing that the moving party's evidence is so sheer that it may not persuade the reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in favor of the moving party.” Id. at 1265.

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by merely pointing out that the evidence in the record is insufficient with respect to an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or referring to evidence, set out specific facts showing that a genuine issue exists. See Id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest upon the pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue for trial. See, e.g., id. at 325; Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         DISCUSSION

         1. The ...


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