United States District Court, N.D. New York
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Lawrence E. Kahn U.S. District Judge.
Rhonda Hardnett-Majette commenced this action against
defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation
("Amtrak") for an alleged slip and fall at the
Albany/Rensselaer Train Station. Dkt. No. 2
("Complaint"). Presently before the Court is
Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 14
("Motion"); see also Dkt. Nos. 14-11
("Memorandum"), 14-10 ("Statement of Material
Facts"), 19 ("Response"), 20
("Reply")- For the reasons that follow, the Motion
is granted in part, and denied in part.
December 23, 2014, Plaintiff arrived at the Albany/Rensselaer
train station for a trip to Elyria, Ohio to visit her mother.
Dkt. No. 14-5 ("Plaintiff Deposition") at 24:9-22.
Plaintiff arrived at the train station at approximately 6:00
PM. Li at 25:8-14. It had been drizzling all day and the
light rain continued as Plaintiff arrived at the station.
Id. at 26:19-27:18. As Plaintiff walked onto the
platform, she observed that the floor was wet. Li at
32:20-33:18, 39:8-13. That day, the car in which Plaintiff
was ticketed was not aligning with the station platform due
to construction. Id. at 61:6-22. A conductor
instructed her to enter a different car and travel through
the train to enter the sleeper car. Id. at 40:11-14.
According to Plaintiff, this construction resulted in a
larger than normal gap between the train and the platform.
Id. 61:5-62. Plaintiffs husband accompanied her to
the entrance of the car and witnessed the fall. Li at
40:15-41:17, 50:1-7. Also present were two Amtrak employees,
one outside the entrance to the car and another just inside
the train vestibule. Id. at 47:1-8. The employee
inside the vestibule told Plaintiff to "[w]atch [her]
step" as she boarded. Id. at 46:19-24.
Plaintiff noticed the gap between the platform and train and
that the entrance to the train was wet. Id. at
Plaintiffs right foot made contact with the train, she
slipped, and her entire right leg fell through the gap.
Id. at 42:15-43:18. Plaintiffs left leg remained on
the platform splayed behind her as her right leg hung between
the train and platform. Id. at 42:15-23,
48:18-49:11. Plaintiff alleges that the gap was large enough
to fit her entire body. Id. at 43:22-44:2. Plaintiff
has a forty-five inch waistline, and she has estimated the
gap to be 14.3 inches wide-the diameter of her body. Resp. at
4. Plaintiffs husband stated that he "thought she was
going to fall through" the gap to the track below and
estimated that the gap was "no more than a foot."
Dkt. No. 14-7 ("Majette Deposition") at 26:3-7,
35:13-17. According to Defendant's expert witness, the
gap at the Albany/Rensselaer Station is at least seven inches
wide as required by New York Rail Road Law. Dkt. No. 14-9
("Torisno Affidavit") ¶¶ 5-8. Defendant
has not provided the actual or theoretical maximum gap size
at the time of the accident or any other time. Id; Reply at
husband and an Amtrak employee pulled Plaintiff out of the
gap. PL Dep. at 42:15-23. She was then offered medical
treatment, but declined. Id. at 53:20-54:10. As
Plaintiff walked to her seat, she experienced burning pain in
her right leg. Id. When she took her seat, Plaintiff
rolled up her pant leg and found that her right leg had been
scraped and bruised by the fall. Id. at 55:12-56:1.
Plaintiff later assisted an Amtrak employee in filling out an
accident report in which she stated that the causes of her
fall were the presence of the gap and the wet condition of
the train and platform. Dkt. No. 14-6 ("Accident
Report") at 1-2.
Plaintiff arrived at her destination the following day, her
right leg was severely bruised and she experienced pain in
her left knee. Pl. Dep. at 68:12-22. Upon disembarking,
Plaintiff went to the hospital and she was given a wrap for
her left knee and told to ice and elevate her right leg.
Id. at 69:3-13. Plaintiff sought medical treatment a
month later from an orthopedist for pain in her left knee.
Id. at 71:7-72:4. An MRI of her left leg showed torn
ligaments and tendons, and was given a cortisone shot, which
alleviated the pain. Id. Approximately eleven months
later, Plaintiff began experiencing pain and mobility
problems again in her left knee and sought care from multiple
doctors. Id. at 73:7-74:5. It was at this point that
she brought suit against Defendant. Id. at 80:5-20.
initiated this lawsuit in Schenectady County Supreme Court on
February 17, 2016, and it was removed to the Northern
District of New York on April 6, 2016. Dkt. No. 1
("Notice of Removal"); Compl. at 2. The Complaint
asserts that Defendant negligently maintained the premises,
causing Plaintiff to fall between the train and the platform.
Id. ¶ 4. On February 17, 2017, Amtrak moved for
summary judgment, arguing primarily that it cannot be liable
for negligence because it complied with all legal standards
for gap width between the platform and train. Mem. At 11-12.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure instructs courts to
grant summary judgment if "there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
Although "[f]actual disputes that are irrelevant or
unnecessary" will not preclude summary judgment,
"summary judgment will not lie 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 (1986); see also Taggart v.
Time, Inc., 924 F.2d 43, 46 (2d Cir. 1991) ("Only
when no reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the
nonmoving party should summary judgment be granted.").
party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of informing
the court of the basis for the motion and of identifying
those portions of the record that the moving party claims
will demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986). Similarly, a party is entitled to summary judgment
when the nonmoving party carries the ultimate burden of proof
and has failed "to establish the existence of an element