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CAPRIOTTI v. CONRAIL

March 13, 1995

SALVATORE B. CAPRIOTTI, Plaintiff,
v.
CONSOLIDATED RAIL CORPORATION, Defendant.


FREDERICK J. SCULLIN, JR., U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE


The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDERICK J. SCULLIN, JR.

INTRODUCTION

 This matter is before the court on defendant Consolidated Rail Corporation's ("Conrail") renewed motion for summary judgment. On December 18, 1992, this court denied defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Subsequently, on February 15, 1994, Conrail's motion for summary judgment was denied with leave to renew. The court's decision on the summary judgment motion was based predominantly on Carlisle v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 990 F.2d 90 (3d Cir. 1993), from which, at the time, certiorari had been granted by the Supreme Court. In June 1994 the Supreme Court reversed Carlisle. See Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Gottshall and Carlisle, 129 L. Ed. 2d 427, 114 S. Ct. 2396 (1994). Accordingly Conrail has renewed its motion for summary judgment.

 BACKGROUND

 The facts of this case are relatively straightforward. Plaintiff, Salvatore Capriotti, 52 years old, worked as a yardmaster in the Dewitt train yard for Conrail. He had worked for Conrail since 1960. He suffered a heart attack in 1982 and again in 1983. In 1983 he had open heart surgery. He continued to work after both incidents.

 Plaintiff alleges that he suffered increased heart problems in March of 1991 and was in and out of work through October 1991. He claims that from 1987 through 1991 Conrail cut back its staff causing him to take on more responsibility, more hours and more erratic schedules. In November 1991 Conrail unilaterally arranged for plaintiff's transfer to Buffalo. Immediately thereafter plaintiff went out on sick leave and has not returned to work.

 Plaintiff claims that "the cumulative effect of all these duties and responsibilities created an extremely stressful environment in which plaintiff was required to work." Complaint P 8. Plaintiff further alleges that Conrail negligently instructed plaintiff "to work long hours and under stressful conditions" and was negligent in transferring him without prior notice. Complaint P 13. Plaintiff claims that "the duties and responsibilities . . . together with the long hours of work, exacerbated or aggravated the plaintiff's heart condition," Complaint P 9, and that he has suffered "personal injuries, he [has] experienced pain and suffering . . . [and] the loss of the amenities and enjoyment of life." Complaint P 15. He also claims that because of Conrail's negligence, "his heart condition worsened [and] that he suffers from exertional or stress related angina pectoris." Complaint P 15.

 DISCUSSION

 I. THE FEDERAL EMPLOYERS' LIABILITY ACT CLAIM

 A. STATUTORY BACKDROP

 The Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq., is a broad remedial statute that is to be construed liberally in order to effectuate its purposes. Marchica v. Long Island R.R. Co., 31 F.3d 1197 (2d Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 130 L. Ed. 2d 631, 115 S. Ct. 727 (1995). Section 1 of FELA, 45 U.S.C. § 51, provides in part:

 
Every common carrier by railroad while engaging in [interstate] commerce . . . shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce . . . resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of [the carrier] . . . .

 This section "provides railroad workers not only with substantive protection against negligent conduct by the railroad, but also affords an injured worker a remedy untrammeled by many traditional defenses against tort liability." Kulavic v. Chicago & Illinois Midland Ry. Co., 1 F.3d 507, 512 (7th Cir. 1993). In this liberal spirit, the law requires only a minimum amount of evidence to establish liability under FELA. See Harbin v. Burlington Northern Ry. Co., 921 F.2d 129, 131-32 (7th Cir. 1990) (noting examples of FELA actions that were submitted to a jury based upon "evidence scarcely more substantial than pigeon bone broth"). The proof needed to get a case to a jury in a FELA case is merely whether "employer negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury." Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Gottshall and Carlisle, 129 L. Ed. 2d 427, 114 S. Ct. 2396, 2404 (1994) (quoting Rogers v. Missouri Pacific R.R., 352 U.S. 500, 506, 1 L. Ed. 2d 493, 77 S. Ct. 443 (1957)).

 Nevertheless, FELA "does not make the employer the insurer of the safety of his employees while they are on duty. The basis of his liability is his negligence, not the fact that injuries occur." Gottshall and Carlisle, 114 S. Ct. at 2404. In this respect, the traditional common law negligence elements of duty, breach, causation and damages are still applicable. Moody v. Boston and Maine ...


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