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Hinkle v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.

December 21, 2006

JOSEPH TODD HINKLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORFOLK SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Gregory L. Frost

Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King

OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court for consideration of the following sets of filings:

(1) Plaintiff's July 27, 2006 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. # 22) and its separately docketed supporting memorandum (Doc. # 23), Defendant's memorandum in opposition (Doc. # 32), and Plaintiff's reply memorandum (Doc. # 36);

(2) Defendant's July 28, 2006 Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 24), Plaintiff's memorandum in opposition (Doc. # 29), and Defendant's reply memorandum (Doc. # 33); and

(3) Defendant's August 29, 2006 motion to strike (Doc. # 33), Plaintiff's memorandum in opposition (Doc. # 35), and Plaintiff's reply memorandum (Doc. # 39).

Also before the Court is Plaintiff's request for oral argument on the foregoing motions. (Doc. # 35, at 1 n.1.) For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES the request for oral argument (Doc. # 35),*fn1 GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment on the limited issue of liability (Doc. # 22), DENIES Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. # 24), and DENIES AS MOOT Defendant's motion to strike (Doc. # 33).

I. Background

Defendant, Norfolk Southern Railway Company, is a common carrier for hire. Plaintiff, Joseph Todd Hinkle, is a locomotive engineer who was employed by Defendant at Watkins Yard in Columbus, Ohio. On February 27, 2003, Plaintiff boarded locomotive engine number 5253 at Defendant's Watkins Yard and went to assume his seat in the locomotive cab. When the seat tipped forward toward the control stand, Plaintiff fell off the seat and into the control stand, which caused Plaintiff to incur what he alleges is a permanently disabling back injury.

Plaintiff subsequently instituted the instant action on June 15, 2005, alleging that the locomotive seat had not been securely mounted and braced. (Doc. # 1.) He later filed an Amended Complaint, which contains three counts: Count I asserts a violation of the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. §§ 51-60, Count II asserts a violation of the Federal Locomotive Inspection Act("FLIA"), 49 U.S.C. § 20701 et seq., and Count III asserts a violation of the Code of Federal Regulations, 49 C.F.R. Part 229 et seq. Plaintiff seeks $2,000,000 and costs. (Doc. # 26.)

Plaintiff has moved for partial summary judgment (Doc. # 23), while Defendant has moved for summary judgment in its entirety (Doc. # 24). In a memorandum in opposition, Defendant has also moved to strike portions of Plaintiff's affidavit. (Doc. # 33.) The parties have completed their briefing, and all three pending motions are now ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion

A. Standard Involved

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The Court must therefore grant a motion for summary judgment here if Plaintiff, who has the burden of proof at trial, fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element that is essential to his case. See Muncie Power Prods., Inc. v. United Techs. Auto., Inc., 328 F.3d 870, 873 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)).

In viewing the evidence, the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, and that party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Id. (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)); Hamad v. Woodcrest Condo. Ass'n, 328 F.3d 224, 234 (6th Cir. 2003). A genuine issue of material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Muncie, 328 F.3d at 873 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Consequently, the central issue is " 'whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement ...


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