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Santillanes v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 13, 2015

TIM SANTILLANES, Plaintiff,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Tim Santillanes' ("Plaintiff") Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. 25), Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Affidavit filed in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 41), Motion for Leave to File Declaration of Tim Santillanes (Dkt. 46), and Joint Motion to Continue Trial (Dkt. 58).[1]

The parties have submitted their briefing on the motions and the matter is now ripe for the Court's review. Having fully reviewed the record herein, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the motions shall be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument.

I. Factual Background

Plaintiff began working for Defendant Union Pacific Railroad Company ("Union Pacific") in 1978. (Dkt. 26-3, p. 10, ll. 10.) On January 7, 2010, the day of his accident, Plaintiff was working as an EC-4 geometry car ("EC-4") operator.[2] (Dkt. 26-1, ¶ 1); (Dkt. 36, p. 5.) The EC-4 is a rail-bound test car. (Dkt. 37, ¶ 4.) The EC-4 is about 86 feet long and weighs approximately 100 tons. ( Id. ) Geometry cars like the EC-4 can be self-propelled, and can also be towed by a locomotive. ( Id. ) On the day of Plaintiff's accident, the EC-4 was self-propelled.[3] ( Id. ) Geometry cars such as the EC-4 are not a part of Union Pacific's through-freight transportation service, and are not designed to pull or haul freight or equipment. ( Id., ¶ 12.) On the day of Plaintiff's accident, the EC-4 was not pulling or hauling anything. ( Id. )

On the day of his accident, Plaintiff and the rest of the EC-4 crew and supervisors stopped to re-fuel near Gaviota, California, on Union Pacific's track near milepost 336. (Dkt. 26-1, ¶ 2.) Union Pacific's track runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean, and the EC-4 stopped on the track a few hundred yards away from a cliff. ( Id. ) Plaintiff had to urinate during the re-fueling stop, and, after exiting the EC-4 after another employee asked him for assistance outside the machine, Plaintiff stopped to relieve himself about 4-6 feet away from the cliff. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 9; Dkt. 26-1, ¶¶ 5-6.) After Plaintiff relieved himself, he was returning to the EC-4 when the ground beneath him collapsed. (Dkt.26-1, ¶ 6.) As a result of the collapse, Plaintiff fell approximately 100 feet to the beach below and sustained severe injuries, including a broken arm, dislocated shoulder, torn rotator cuff, lacerations, four broken ribs, sprained ankles, road rash, and abrasions on his head and back. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 13.)

Plaintiff alleges that he chose to urinate outside-rather than returning inside to use the toilet compartment of the EC-4-because the EC-4's toilet compartment was unsanitary. Specifically, the EC-4's lavatory utilizes an incinerator system that burns human waste. (Dkt. 26-1, ¶ 3.) As a result, the lavatory produces smells of burnt liquid and solid human waste so odoriferous employees cannot use it. ( Id. ) Further, the toilet frequently overflowed. ( Id. ) As a result of the terrible smells produced by the EC-4 lavatory, Plaintiff alleges Union Pacific allowed its employees to go outside of the test car to relieve themselves, and that this was not a violation of Union Pacific's rules or regulations. ( Id., ¶ 4.) Moreover, Plaintiff claims his supervisor, Andrew Gonzales ("Gonzales"), relieved himself in approximately the same location 4-6 feet from the edge of the cliff a few minutes before Plaintiff relieved himself there. ( Id., ¶ 5.) Finally, Plaintiff notes Union Pacific was aware the location where the EC-4 stopped on the tracks was a dangerous area.[4] ( Id. )

In the instant motion, Plaintiff seeks partial summary judgment finding Union Pacific violated the Locomotive Inspection Act, 49 U.S.C. § 20701, in failing to provide a sanitary lavatory on the EC-4, and that such failure caused Plaintiff's injuries.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Motions for summary judgment are governed by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 56 provides that judgment shall be granted if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). According to Rule 56, an issue must be both "material" and "genuine" to preclude entry of summary judgment. An issue is "material" if it affects the outcome of the litigation. Hahn v. Sargent, 523 F.2d 461, 464 (1st Cir. 1975). That is, a material fact is one that is relevant to an element of a claim or defense which might affect the outcome of the suit. The materiality of a fact is thus determined by the substantive law governing the claim or defense. T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986)). Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment. Id.

On the other hand, an issue is "genuine" when there is "sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute... to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." Hahn, 523 F.2d at 464 (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)). Because factual disputes are to be resolved at trial, in ruling on summary judgment motions, the Court does not resolve conflicting evidence with respect to disputed material facts, nor does it make credibility determinations. T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc., 809 F.2d at 630. Such determinations are within the province of the factfinder at trial. Therefore, when deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Id.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), a party may move for summary adjudication on part of a claim or defense. The standard that applies to a motion for summary adjudication is the same as that which applies to a motion for summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Mora v. Chem-Tronics, 16 F.Supp.2d 1192, 1200 (S.D. Cal. 1998). Accordingly, the Court may grant summary adjudication upon a showing that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that it is entitled to summary adjudication. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to show that summary judgment is not appropriate. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Framework


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