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Chader v. CSX Transportation

September 30, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Elizabeth Chader brought this action against her employer, CSX Corporation, Inc., under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA),*fn1 alleging CSX's liability for injuries she sustained in her right hand during the course of her employment. (See generally Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Pending is CSX's motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 15.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is denied.

II. Background

A. Facts

From August 2000 to present, Chader has been employed by CSX. (See Pl. Mem. of Law at 2, Dkt. No. 16.) On March 14, 2005, in Selkirk, New York, Chader was working for CSX as a stevedore. (See Compl. ¶ 6, Dkt. No. 1; see also Def. SMF ¶ 2, Dkt. No. 15:15.) As a stevedore, Chader unloaded automobiles from railcars. (See Def. SMF ¶ 4, Dkt. No. 15:15.) Specifically, Chader was required to (1) open the railcar doors, (2) place metal plates between the railcars, (3) unshackle the automobiles located within the railcars, and (4) drive the automobiles to designated parking spaces. (See Def. SMF ¶ 4-5, Dkt. No. 15:15.)

On March 14, 2005, Chader was unloading automobiles that were shackled to the railcars by "grate chocks." (See id. at ¶ 6.) Chocks are metal-plastic devices that are clamped to the railcar floor in front of or behind an automobile's wheels to hold the automobile in place during rail transport. (See Def. Mem. of Law at 2, Dkt. No. 15:14 (citing Def. Ex. C, Chader Dep. at 41, Dkt. No. 15:5).) Chader removes grate chocks in three steps. First, she rotates a lever on the chock to loosen the chock from the grating on the railcar floor. (See Def. SMF ¶ 7, Dkt. No. 15:15.) Second, Chader collapses the chock, which reduces its size. (See id.) Third, she places the collapsed chock on a bracket on the railcar's wall for storage and secures the chock to the bracket by rotating the lever on the chock. (See id.) Chader performs this process "[o]ne chock at a time." (See Def. Ex. C, Chader Dep. at 72, Dkt. No. 15:6.)

On March 14, while removing a grate chock, Chader was injured.*fn2

(See Def. SMF ¶, Dkt. No. 15:15.) At that time, Chader was handling a chock that weighed approximately five to ten pounds. (See Def. Ex. C, Chader Dep. at 90, Dkt. No. 15:6.) She had already removed the chock from the railcar floor grate and was not operating the lever on the chock. (See Def. SMF ¶¶ 10-11, Dkt. No. 15:15; see also Def. Ex. C, Chader Dep. at 78, 80, Dkt. No. 15:6).) However, the specific cause of her injury is in dispute. In other words, it is unclear where in the process of handling the chock Chader suffered her injury.

Chader filed an Employee Incident Report on April 8, 2005. (See Def. Ex. F, Dkt. No. 15:9.) In the Report, Chader described the incident as follows: "[p]lacing chock on wall I felt a stabbing pain in my wrist [and] was unable to use my hand after this." (See id. at 1.) In filing the Report, Chader responded "no" to the questions asking whether the injury was a recurrence, whether anyone was at fault, whether defective tools or equipment caused the incident, and whether there was any failure to give usual or necessary signals, warnings, or protection. (See id. at 1-2.) Additionally, Chader responded "yes" to a question asking whether she had a safe place to work in. (See id. at 2.)

B. Procedural History

Chader filed suit against CSX on November 15, 2007, pursuant to FELA, claiming CSX: (1) failed to provide a reasonably safe place to work; (2) failed to provide Chader with safe and proper tools for performing her duties; (3) failed to provide Chader with sufficient time to perform her duties; (4) failed to take appropriate precautions for Chader; (5) assigned work to Chader that she was not properly trained or physically suited to perform under the conditions at the time of the alleged incident; (6) failed to provide reasonable or adequate assistance and supervision; and (7) failed to promulgate and enforce rules, regulations, policies, or procedures for employees to perform their duties safely and properly. (See Compl. at ¶ 8, Dkt. No. 1.) In addition, Chader alleged that CSX and its agents, supervisory personnel, and other employees negligently caused her injuries. (See id.) Consequently, Chader demanded $400,000 in damages for: (1) injuries to her right hand; (2) past and future physical pain, discomfort, and mental anguish; (3) past and future medical expenses; (4) lost income, earning capacity, and employment benefits; and (5) lost ability to perform "the usual personal affairs of a woman of her age and position in life." (See id. at ¶ 11.)

On February 2, 2009, CSX moved for summary judgment on Chader's claims. (See Def. Mem. of Law at 10-13, Dkt. No. 15:14.)

Specifically, CSX contends that, based on all the evidence, Chader failed to demonstrate proximate cause and ...

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