Mathis v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
OPINION AND ORDER - The Court granted judgment in favor of Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. in an Order filed on 2/8/12. Signed by Senior Judge Peter C Economus on 2/24/2012. (jr1)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
Case No. 2:09-cv-0928
Judge Peter C. Economus
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC.,
OPINION AND ORDER
The matter before the Court is a negligence action in which Plaintiff Michael Mathis
claims to have been injured on the job in violation of 45 U.S.C. ' 51 et seq., the Federal
Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”). Mathis filed his Complaint on October 16, 2009. (Doc. #
2.) Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc., filed its Answer on November 16, 2009 (doc. # 7), and
from there, the matter went to trial on February 7, 2012. At the close of Mathis’s case in chief,
CSX moved for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50.
The Court granted the motion and ordered judgment in favor of CSX. (Doc. # 63.)
In March 2005, Mathis began working for CSX as a switchman, brakeman, and
conductor. (Complaint, & 3.) On June 26, 2007, while working at the BIDS terminal in
Columbus, Ohio, Mathis suffered an injury to his foot. Mathis claims that the cause of the injury
was CSX’s negligence for failing to provide a safe place to work due to insufficient lighting and
footing. Notably, Mathis offered no evidence about the lighting or the footing other than his own
statement that they were “inadequate.” During his testimony at trial, he stated that he stepped
toward a cut lever in a rail car and then felt his foot “pop.” He does not know what he stepped
on—or if he stepped on anything at all. His doctor testified that the injury was the result of a
Rule 50 permits a court to render judgment as a matter of law when “a party has been
fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to
find for that party on that issue.” Fed.R. Civ.P. 50(a); see also Weisgram v. Marley Co., 528
U.S. 440, 447 – 48 (2000). “In doing so, however, the court must draw all reasonable inferences
in favor of the non-moving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the
evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prod., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000) (citing Lytle v.
Household Mfg., Inc., 494 U.S. 545, 554 – 55 (1990)). To withstand a motion for judgment as a
matter of law, a plaintiff must present more than a scintilla of evidence. Aparicio v. Norfolk &
Western Ry. Co., 84 F.3d 803, 810 (6th Cir. 1996) (abrogated on other grounds by Reeves, 530
U.S. at 150 – 51); see also Frazier v. CSX Trans., Inc., 156 F.3d 1229 (6th Cir. 1998) (Table);
Rogers v. Missouri Pac. R.R., 352 U.S. 500, 510 (1957).
Under FELA, a railroad is liable to its employees “for such injury or death resulting in
whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such
carrier[.]” 45 U.S.C. ' 51. “To prevail on a FELA claim, a plaintiff must prove the traditional
common law elements of negligence: duty, breach, foreseeability, and causation.” Adams v. CSX
Trans., Inc., 899 F.2d 536, 539 (6th Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks omitted). A railroad
breaches its duty of ordinary care to protect employees from dangers “if it knew or should have
known that it was not acting adequately to protect its employees.” Aparicio, 84 F.3d at 811.
There is no dispute that CSX owed Mathis a duty of care. However, to withstand CSX’s
motion, Mathis had to present evidence to meet the remainder of the prima facie negligence case:
breach, foreseeability, and causation. Mathis utterly failed to offer even a scintilla of evidence in
support of these elements. If anything, the only evidence in the record supports CSX’s motion
for judgment as a matter of law. Mathis’s witness Harry Freeman—a member of the Safety
Committee to whom workplace-safety complaints were made—testified that he had no
knowledge of any supposed inadequate lighting and footing at the BIDS terminal. Mathis
testified that he had never reported a problem nor knew of anyone who had. No evidence was
introduced to show CSX’s knowledge. With only this evidence before it, the jury could not
possibly find in favor of Mathis on the elements of breach or foreseeability. Concurrently, the
jury had no evidence with regard to the causation element. Mathis not only testified that he has
no idea what caused the injury to his foot, but also that he does not even know if he stepped on
anything that should not have been there. Even though his doctor testified that the injury was
due to a “misstep,” there is no evidence to connect the cause of that misstep to CSX’s actions or
The record in this case does not contain any evidence to enable the jury to find in favor of
Mathis on the elements of breach, foreseeability, or causation. In the absence of that evidence,
judgment as matter of law in favor of CSX is appropriate.
For the foregoing reasons, this Court granted judgment in favor of Defendant CSX
Transportation, Inc.’s in an Order filed on February 8, 2012. (Doc. # 63.)
/s/ Peter C. Economus - February 24, 2012
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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