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Bartnick v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 3, 2014

JOSEPH BARTNICK, Plaintiff,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.

E. STANLEY MURPHY, ESQ., The Moody Law Firm, Inc., Portsmouth, VA, for the Plaintiff.

LAWRENCE R. BAILEY, JR., Eckert, Seamans Law Firm, White Plains, NY, for the Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction[1]

Plaintiff Joseph Bartnick commenced this Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA or "the Act")[2] action against his employer, defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Bartnick alleges that CSX was negligent by failing to provide him with a safe workplace, causing injury. ( Id. ¶ 16.) Pending is CSX's motion for summary judgment dismissing Bartnick's complaint. (Dkt. No. 62.) For the reasons that follow, the motion for summary judgment is denied.[3]

II. Background[4]

Bartnick has been employed by CSX in various capacities since 2006. (Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 4 at 20.) At the time of the incident in question, he was working as a messenger, responsible for transporting crew members to different points around the rail yard. ( Id. at 23-24; Def.'s Statement of Material Facts (SMF) ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 10.)

On December 9, 2010, at approximately 7:00 A.M., Bartnick was in a parking lot on the grounds of CSX's Selkirk Yard. (Def.'s SMF ¶¶ 2-3; Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 4 at 29.) At that point it was snowing, and had been for several hours, causing several inches of snow to accumulate on the ground. (Def.'s SMF ¶¶ 4, 9; Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 4 at 49-50; Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 6 at 10-11.) Neither the parking lot itself nor the surrounding walkways had been plowed or cleared of snow. (Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 5 at 53.) Bartnick had walked across the parking lot, from a building on the yard grounds, to reach his car. (Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 4 at 54-55.) When he reached his car, he began clearing the snow off of it, which had at that point accumulated to "a good three to four inches, " but then decided to return to the building to find something to help him better remove the snow. ( Id. at 56; Def.'s SMF ¶ 6.)

As he traversed the parking lot on his way back to the building, and when he reached the edge of the parking lot, Bartnick was watching and checking the ground in front of him. (Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 4 at 59; Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 5 at 12.) At that point, he took a step with his left foot, and when it hit the ground, his left foot "slid underneath [him], " causing him to fall and injure his ankle. (Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 4 at 59; Def.'s SMF ¶ 11.) Bartnick believed that a broken piece of blacktop underneath the snow caused his left foot to slip. (Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 4 at 60-61; Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 5 at 52-53.) Bartnick's ankle began to swell, he was subsequently taken to the hospital, and his ankle ultimately required surgery. (Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 4 at 68-70; Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 5 at 15.)

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its decision in Wagner v. Swarts, 827 F.Supp.2d 85, 92 (N.D.N.Y. 2011), aff'd sub nom. Wagner v. Sprague, 489 F.Appx. 500 (2d Cir. 2012).

IV. Discussion

CSX argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because it was not negligent, and instead that Bartnick's injury was caused by a weather condition that CSX had no duty to remedy. (Dkt. No. 62, Attach. 11 at 3-6.) In response, Bartnick emphasizes that his claim is based not solely on the accumulation of snow, but rather on a theory that he fell as a result of broken pavement that had been hidden from view by the accumulated snowfall. (Dkt. No. 65 at 11-13.) Consequently, he argues, CSX has not met its burden of demonstrating that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and questions of fact as to the reasonableness of CSX's actions under the circumstances prevent the entry of summary judgment. ( Id. ) The court agrees with Bartnick, and denies CSX's motion for summary judgment.

FELA, a broad remedial statute that must be construed liberally in order to effectuate its purposes, see Marchica v. Long Island R.R. Co., 31 F.3d 1197, 1202 (2d Cir. 1994), imposes liability on railroad employers for injuries suffered by their employees "resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of [the railroad], " 45 U.S.C. § 51. In light of its broad remedial nature, FELA "creat[es] a relaxed standard for negligence as well as causation." Williams v. Long Island R.R. Co., 196 F.3d 402, 406 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citation ...


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