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Holloway v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 13, 2017

MICHAEL L. HOLLOWAY, Plaintiff,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD CO., Defendant.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD, AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff is suing his employer, Defendant Union Pacific Railroad, for alleged violations of the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. Defendant has moved for summary judgment, [Doc. No. 30]. Plaintiff opposes the Motion. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.

         Facts and Background

         The following facts are not disputed, unless otherwise noted. Plaintiff claims to have suffered the injury at issue in this case on December 17, 2012, while moving a generator from Union Pacific's depot in Scott City, Missouri, to another building. Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that Union Pacific was negligent in that it (1) failed to provide a reasonably safe place to work; (2) failed to provide reasonably safe equipment; (3) failed to properly instruct, educate, or train its employees; (4) failed to warn Plaintiff of dangers that confronted him; (5) failed to provide proper supervision and training; (6) failed to adopt or enforce safe customs and practices; and (7) assigned plaintiff work that was unsafe.

         Plaintiff began his career with Defendant in 1979. He joined the signal department in 1988. In 2011, he became a Signal Forman.

         Before his incident occurred, Plaintiff had been told to move several generators out of the depot at Scott City because they contained gasoline and should not be kept in an occupied building. He was first told to move the generators in June or July of 2012, which was about six months before his incident. Plaintiff was again told in a meeting on December 13, 2012, that the generators needed to be moved.

         When plaintiff started work on December 1 7, 2012, he did not initially plan on moving any generators. Plaintiff arrived at work at around 7:00 a.m., participated in a conference call that lasted about ninety minutes, and then checked his email and filled out an expense report and some other paperwork. It was not until about 10:00 or 10:30 a.m. on December 17, 2012, when he decided to move one of the generators. Plaintiff decided to move the generator on December 17, 2012, because he was worried about being disciplined and he wanted to be able to say that he had at least started on the task of moving the generators.

         Plaintiff decided to move one of the two small generators that he thought he could move by himself. To move the generator, Plaintiff first got it out of the depot and loaded it onto his pickup truck, using a pallet as a "makeshift ramp" to help him get the generator into the bed of the truck. After loading the generator in his truck, plaintiff then drove his truck one hundred yards or so over to the signal cabinet where he had decided to put the generator. He then slid the generator out of the pickup and dropped it on the ground. After dropping the generator on the ground, Plaintiff dragged the generator over to the door of the signal cabinet, got beside it, and pushed it up to the edge of the door. He was going to lift the generator and drag it inside the signal cabinet but, as he squatted down, he felt pain in his back.

         Plaintiff testified that he had sufficient time to do the job of moving the generator safely. At the time of his incident, Plaintiff was moving at a safe speed and was not rushing. He was alert, attentive, and focused on the task of moving the generator.

         Plaintiff claims that the railroad should have provided a ramp or assistive devices like a boom on his truck, a two-wheeled dolly, or a forklift. He also claims that he should have been provided with additional help.

         Plaintiff assigned the task of moving the generators to himself. No one at the railroad gave Plaintiff instructions on how to move the generators, or said that they had to be moved by a certain day. No one at the railroad prevented plaintiff from getting help, a boom, a ramp, a dolly, or a forklift, for the purpose of moving the generators. All decisions on how the generator was going to be moved were made by Plaintiff.

         Before his incident, Plaintiff did not anticipate any problems with the task of moving the generator. Plaintiff completed a "lone worker job briefing" before his incident in which he determined that he did not need any special tools or lifting devices to do the job safely. The only risk Plaintiff identified in his "lone worker job briefing" was the need to use proper lifting techniques-he did not identify risks like the lack of a ramp or the need for additional help or assistive devices.

         Before his incident occurred, Plaintiff had never complained that he needed a ramp, boom, dolly, forklift, or additional help, to move the generator. Plaintiff did not try to obtain any special tools before moving the generator. He did not try to obtain a ramp, boom, dolly, or forklift, before moving the generator. Even though there were about ten members of a maintenance-of-way gang in the depot on the morning of his incident, Plaintiff did not ask anyone to help him move the generator.

         At the time of his incident, plaintiff was a supervisor over numerous employees and had authority to direct them to do the work or to assist him in doing the work. Plaintiff believed before he started moving the generator on the day of his incident that he could move the ...


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