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Aramini v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 30, 2014



WILLIAM M. SKRETNY, Chief District Judge.


Plaintiffs commenced this personal injury action by filing a Summons and Complaint in New York State Supreme Court against the County of Erie, City of Buffalo, and CSX Transportation, Inc. On September 2, 2011, CSX removed the action to this Court, arguing that the County and City were fraudulently joined in the suit. Subsequently, Plaintiffs stipulated to the County of Erie's dismissal (Docket Nos. 9, 12), and this Court dismissed the City of Buffalo as having been fraudulently joined (Docket No. 24). CSX is now the sole Defendant.

Presently before this Court is CSX's Motion for Summary Judgment. The motion is fully briefed and the Court has concluded there is no need for oral argument. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted and the Complaint is dismissed.


At all relevant times, Peter Aramini was employed at the City of Buffalo Sanitation Department in the position of garbage lifter. Docket No. 44-1, Exh. A at 7:9-9:23, 11:16-19. On May 1, 2010, in the course of his employment, Aramini was traveling on the back of a City sanitation truck driven by another City of Buffalo employee, John Miceli. Def's Stmt[1] ¶¶ 2-3. The truck entered onto West Ferry Street, over which CSX railroad tracks pass via a supporting railroad bridge (the "Bridge"). Id . ¶¶ 4-5.

Prior to May 1, 2010, Eugene Kelsey, Training Officer for the City of Buffalo Sanitation Department, had prepared training materials and a posting instructing drivers and equipment operators not to drive under the bridge crossing West Ferry Street with any vehicle, and included directions for avoiding the Bridge. Docket No. 44-1 Exh. B at 20:15-21:6, 21:21-22:20, 24:7-25:12, 27:23-30:1. On May 1, Miceli nevertheless attempted to drive under the Bridge. The top of the sanitation truck struck the Bridge, bringing it to a sudden stop. Def's Stmt ¶ 6. Aramini was positioned at the rear of the truck on the driver's side, with his right arm through a shoulder-height steel handle mounted on the truck. When the impact occurred, Aramini's body swung forward while his wrist and hand remained through the handle. Docket No. 47 ¶¶ 26-27. He was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph's Hospital for an injury to his right wrist. Id . ¶¶ 32-34, Exh. B.

Sometime after the incident, Training Officer Kelsey spoke with driver Miceli, who stated that he knew he was not supposed to drive under the Bridge, but had forgotten to go the other way. Docket No. 44-1, Exh. B at 31:16-32:10. Aramini now alleges that the injuries he sustained on May 1, 2010 were due to CSX's negligence, and his wife Margret claims loss of consortium. The Complaint's only fact allegations relating to CSX's alleged negligence are that a "sign was not in a condition which would alert drivers upon West Ferry Street of the true height of the railroad bridge" and that CSX owns, uses, and maintains the Bridge. Docket No. 1 ¶¶ 14, 23. Aramini later added, in response to CSX's interrogatories, that CSX was negligent in: operating a bridge with insufficient clearance, failing to inspect the bridge, failing to keep the bridge within its standard of efficiency from when it was first constructed, controlling and operating a structure known to be a nuisance, failing to post adequate warning to alert drivers of the true clearance of the bridge, failing to fulfill its duties under New York Railroad Law § 93, and controlling and operating a structure with clearance below the maximum legal limit. Docket No. 44-1 Exh. F at 15.

There is no dispute that CSX, a common carrier providing freight railroad transportation, owns the Bridge and the railroad tracks supported by the Bridge. Def's Stmt ¶ 11. CSX acquired the Bridge in 1999, as part of its purchase of certain Consolidated Rail Corporation ("Conrail") assets. CSX inspects the Bridge at least once a year, and maintains the structure of the Bridge. Id . ¶¶ 13, 16. In 2008, pursuant to Federal Railroad Administration policy, CSX adopted a Structure management Plan and the Plan was in effect at the time of the accident at issue. Id . ¶ 14. CSX inspected the Bridge in accordance with its Plan. Id . ¶ 15. Inspections for the three years preceding the accident (2007, 2008, 2009) indicate no serious deficiencies with the Bridge and no damage due to vehicle impact. Id . ¶ 17.

While CSX owns, inspects, and maintains the Bridge over West Ferry Street, the public street below is under the City of Buffalo's sole jurisdiction. Id . ¶ 22. CSX was not involved in West Ferry Street's design or construction, has no control over or rights in the street, including where it passes under the Bridge, and does not install or maintain signage indicating the amount of clearance for vehicles traveling on the street. Id . ¶¶ 19-21. CSX seeks summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that, as a matter of law, its purported acts or omissions do not implicate any legal duty pursuant to which it may be held liable.

In opposition to the motion, Aramini provides, inter alia, two photographs which he attests "accurately depict the overhead bridge crossing West Ferry Street and the posted clearance sign as they appeared on the day of the incident."[2] Docket No. 47 ¶ 31, Exh. A.


A. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is warranted where 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). A "genuine issue" exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Id . "An alleged factual dispute regarding immaterial or minor facts between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment." Powell v. National Bd. of Med. Exam'rs , 364 F.3d 79, 84 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation ...

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