United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
William M. Ryan, Jr., Plaintiff,
CSX Transporation, Inc., Defendant.
OPINION & ORDER
Michael R. Barrett, Judge.
matter is before the Court upon Defendant CSX Transportation,
Inc.'s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Doc. 27).
Plaintiff William M. Ryan, Jr. has filed a Response in
Opposition (Doc. 31); and Defendant filed a Reply (Doc. 32).
William M. Ryan, Jr. is a railroad employee formerly employed
by Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. In his Amended
Complaint, Plaintiff alleges violations under the Federal
Employers' Liability Act (“FELA”), 45 U.S.C.
§§ 51 et seq. and under the Federal Safety
Appliance Act (“FSAA”) 49 U.S.C. § 20302
et seq based on injuries Plaintiff claims he
suffered to his left knee. Plaintiff also brings claims for
retaliation under the Federal Railroad Safety Act
(“FRSA”) 49 U.S.C. § 20109, et seq.
early morning hours of July 30, 2015, Plaintiff was working
as a conductor in the Queensgate Yard in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Plaintiff and his crew were coupling cars in the yard when
Plaintiff noticed a railcar (“Railcar
CIGX802253”) was missing the knuckle, which is a part
of the coupling mechanism. (Doc. 31-1, William Ryan Aff.
¶ 5). Plaintiff called the trim tower yardmaster and
reported that the knuckle was missing. (Id. at
¶ 5). The yardmaster instructed Plaintiff to try to
repair the knuckle. (Id. at ¶ 5). Plaintiff
went to retrieve a replacement for the knuckle. (Id.
at ¶ 6). On his way to where the supply of knuckles is
located, Plaintiff discovered a discarded knuckle on ground.
(Id. at ¶ 7). Plaintiff decided to use that
knuckle to make the repair. (Id. at ¶ 7).
Because a knuckle weighs eighty to ninety pounds, Plaintiff
wanted to avoid carrying the knuckle back to Railcar
CIGX802253. (Id. at ¶ 8). Plaintiff decided to
use a nearby gondola car to move the knuckle. (Id.
at ¶ 8). According to Plaintiff, when he placed the
knuckle on a brake platform of a gondola railcar, the brake
platform tilted slightly towards him and the knuckle started
to fall off the platform. (Id. at ¶ 9).
Plaintiff jumped back to avoid the falling knuckle.
(Id. at ¶ 10). As he backed up, Plaintiff's
feet became entangled in discarded brake rigging which was
lying in between the rails. (Id. at ¶ 10).
Plaintiff's foot skidded and he twisted his knee.
(Id. at ¶ 10). Plaintiff felt pain in his knee,
but continued to work. (Id. at ¶ 11).
Plaintiff's pain later increased, and he was unable to
work the next night. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-16).
Plaintiff was off work from July 30, 2015 until April 2016.
claims that when he returned to work, his work was constantly
scrutinized by railroad officials. (Id. at ¶
9, 2016, Plaintiff was assigned to work as a remote control
operator moving cars in the railyard. (Id. at ¶
27). While on the job, LaCresha Taborn, the Superintendent of
Terminals, saw Plaintiff using his cell phone. (Id.
at ¶ 31). Taborn asked Plaintiff what he was doing, and
Plaintiff responded that he was on his phone “just
checking up on the news.” (Id. at ¶ 31).
Plaintiff believed that this was not a violation of
Defendant's safety policies. (Id. at ¶ 29).
Defendant maintains that it was a violation of CSX Operating
Rule 1001.2, which only permits limited “personal voice
or text communications” when certain conditions are
met. (Doc. 27-8).
that same day, Taborn returned while Plaintiff was performing
his job duties. (Id. at ¶ 41). Taborn told
Plaintiff he was violating safety rules by failing to
“protect” a railroad crossing while he was moving
railcars across the crossing by making sure that the crossing
was clear. (Id. at ¶ 42). Taborn also told
Plaintiff that he failed to visually determine that the
couplers were open when he was making a coupling.
(Id. at ¶ 42). Taborn informed Plaintiff that
she would be accompanying Plaintiff for the remainder of his
shift as a safety measure. (Id. at ¶ 41).
Plaintiff believed he had complied with the rules, and
informed Taborn of this. (Id. at ¶ 43). As
Plaintiff continued to explain himself to Taborn, Plaintiff
became frustrated. (Id. at ¶ 43). Plaintiff
decided to walk away. (Id. at ¶ 44). Plaintiff
claims that as he walked away, he dropped his brake stick and
said under his breath, “Just let me do my G-damn
job.” (Id. at ¶ 44). However, Taborn
claims that Plaintiff threw the brake stick at her and cursed
at her. (Doc. 27-10, PAGEID# 338).
was charged with violating the safety rules; as well as being
argumentative, using profane language, throwing a piece of
company property and failing to follow instructions. (Doc.
27-9). A formal investigation hearing was held. (Doc. 27-10).
The hearing officer determined that Plaintiff had violated
the safety rules and Defendant's Violence in the
Workplace Policy. (Doc. 27-12). On July 18, 2016, Plaintiff
was dismissed in all capacities from service with Defendant
effective immediately. (Id.) Plaintiff appealed to
Public Law Board (“PLB”), which upheld
Plaintiff's termination. (Doc. 27-1).
seeks summary judgment on Plaintiff's FSAA claims (Third
and Fourth Causes of Action) and FRSA claims (Fifth, Sixth,
and Seventh Causes of Action). Defendant's Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment is not directed toward
Plaintiff's FELA claim (First and Second Causes of
Standard of Review
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
is proper “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.” The moving party has the
burden of showing an absence of evidence to support the
non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the moving party
has met its burden of production, the non-moving party cannot
rest on his pleadings, but must present significant probative
evidence in support of his complaint to defeat the motion for
summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).
Federal Safety and Appliance Act
FSAA imposes an absolute duty on railroads to provide and
maintain certain safety appliances. Richards v. Consol.
Rail Corp., 330 F.3d 428, 432 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing
Myers v. Reading Co., 331 U.S. 477, 485, 67 S.Ct.
1334, 91 L.Ed. 1615 (1947); O'Donnell v. Elgin, J.
& E. Ry. Co., 338 U.S. 384, 390, 70 S.Ct. 200, 94
L.Ed. 187 (1949)).
alleges two separate violations of the FSAA: (1) a missing or
defective knuckle on Railcar CIGX802253; and (2) ladders and
running boards on the gondola car which were not safe and
secure. Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claims under
the FSAA fail because there is no evidence that Railcar
CIGX802253's alleged violation of the FSAA caused
Plaintiff's knee injury; and there is no evidence that
the running board on the gondola car was not secure.
recover for a violation of the FSAA, a plaintiff need only
show “(1) the statute was violated; and (2) they
suffered injuries ‘resulting in whole or in part'
from the defective equipment.” Richards, 330
F.3d at 432 (citing Co ...