United States District Court, D. Nebraska
STEVEN C. LOGSDON, Plaintiff,
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. Gerrard United States District Judge.
plaintiff, Steven Logsdon, is suing his former employer, BNSF
Railway, for alleged violations of the Federal Railroad
Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. § 20101, et seq., and the
Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51
et seq. BNSF has moved for summary judgment on both
claims. For the reasons explained below, BNSF's motion
will be granted in part, and denied in part.
following facts are not meaningfully disputed. Logsdon began
his employment with BNSF as a laborer in 2006. Filing 126 at
1. He worked in that position, and later as a first line
supervisor, until his termination on August 27, 2013. Filing
126 at 13. Throughout his employment, Logsdon worked in the
railroad's maintenance shop in Alliance, Nebraska, where
he assisted in the repair of damaged coal cars.
speaking, when a damaged coal car enters the Alliance
facility, certain precautionary measures must be performed
before it reaches a BNSF carman-the employee who is
ultimately responsible for repairing the railcar. One such
measure is the removal of "residual" coal, which
can sometimes stick to the bottom or sides of a railcar due
to cold weather or moisture. Filing 126 at 14. Typically,
when the removal process is performed inside the facility, a
BNSF carman opens the railcar's "dump doors, "
causing the coal to fall onto heavy cardboard paper-or
"slip paper"-which is placed underneath each
opening. Filing 126 at 15. A laborer then bends down, slides
the coal-laden slip paper from under the railcar, and shovels
the coal into a nearby dumpster. Filing 126 at
alleges that he was injured in September 2012 while removing
coal that was dumped inside of the Alliance maintenance
facility. Specifically, Logsdon claims that he was pulling
slip paper from under a railcar when his back "popped,
" causing immediate pain in his shoulders and chest.
Filing 127-2 at 2. The slip paper, Logsdon estimates,
contained 150 to 200 pounds of coal. Filing 126 at 16.
did not immediately report the incident to management. But
approximately 3 months later, on January 16, 2013, he met
with his direct supervisor, Andrew Callahan. Filing 126 at 3.
According to Logsdon, Callahan provided him with a company
injury form, which Logsdon began filling out. But as Logsdon
started describing the slip paper incident, Callahan
allegedly grabbed the form and threw it away. Filing 126 at
20. According to Logsdon, Callahan explained that he would
not allow another "reportable injury, " and
instructed Logsdon to start over with a new
report.Filing 126 at 20; filing 127-2 at 4.
Callahan then allegedly dictated to Logsdon the substance of
the report-making sure that the cause of injury was not
attributable to a specific workplace event. Rather, Logsdon
says, Callahan made him list as the cause of his injury:
"Pain Accumulated over a Period of Time." Filing
125-6 at 27; filing 126 at 20. Logsdon claims that he went
along with Callahan's alleged demands out of fear of
termination, and ultimately submitted a report without any
reference to the slip paper incident. Seefiling
125-6 at 27.
held a standard hearing on Logsdon's injury report on May
29, 2013. Filing 126 at 4. At the hearing, Logsdon informed
the claims administrator that he was injured while pulling
slip paper from underneath a railcar. Filing 125-6 at 55. But
that explanation conflicted with his earlier description on
the incident report-i.e., that the injury stemmed
from a condition that had deteriorated over time. Filing
125-6 at 27. So, based on these inconsistencies, BNSF opened
a separate investigation into Logsdon's
"conduct/dishonesty" in reporting the underlying
injury. See filing 126 at 5. As part of this
investigation, the railroad held a hearing, in which Logsdon
was permitted to testify, call witnesses, and submit evidence
on his own behalf. There, Logsdon admitted that his January
injury report, to the extent that it omitted the slip paper
incident, was inaccurate. But, he argued, such inaccuracies
were the result of intimidation that he endured at the hands
of his supervisor, Callahan. Filing 126 at 7; filing 125-10
at 7. Logsdon submitted evidence on this point, including a
handwritten note that he allegedly wrote (and kept) after the
January 16 meeting with Callahan, and an email that he had
sent to a union official. See, filing 125-6 at 29;
filing 125-6 at 65.
also testified at the investigatory hearing. He acknowledged
meeting with Logsdon on January 16, but denied Logsdon's
description of events. According to Callahan, Logsdon never
mentioned the slip paper incident, and he (Callahan) at no
point demanded that Logsdon lie or omit information regarding
the injury. Filing 125-10 at 9; filing 125-5 at 12.
transcript of the investigatory hearing and all accompanying
exhibits were sent to BNSF's "PEPA" department
for review. Filing 126 at 9. That department is charged with
overseeing the railroad's discipline process, and making
initial determinations as to whether disciplined employees
can and should be terminated. Filing 126 at 9; filing 125-10
at 3. After reviewing the documents in this case, Derek
Cargill, the Director of Labor Relations, recommended that
Logsdon be dismissed for dishonesty-which is, as both parties
acknowledge, a standalone dismissible offense. Filing 124 at
4; filing 126 at 3; filing 126 at 9; filing 125-10 at 5.
Cargill later testified that his decision was based on
discrepancies in Logsdon's story, and on credibility
determinations of the testifying witnesses. See
filing 125-10 at 9. Cargill's recommendation was then
sent to Brandon Mabry, an Assistant Vice President,
who-according to BNSF-made the final decision regarding
Logsdon's termination. Filing 126 at 12; filing 125-10 at
6; filing 125-16 at 1-2. Logsdon was informed of this
decision, and officially dismissed from BNSF's employ, on
August 27, 2013. Filing 126 at 13.
judgment is proper 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. SeeFed.
R. Civ. P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial responsibility
of informing the Court of the basis for the motion, and must
identify those portions of the record which the movant
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643
F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). If the movant does
so, the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary
materials that set out specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial. Id.
motion for summary judgment, facts must be viewed in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is
a genuine dispute as to those facts. Id. Credibility
determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing
of legitimate inferences from the evidence are jury
functions, not those of a judge. Id. But the
nonmovant must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Id. In
order to show that disputed facts are material, the party
opposing summary judgment must cite to the relevant
substantive law in identifying facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit. Quinn v. St. Louis County, 653
F.3d 745, 751 (8th Cir. 2011). The existence of a mere
scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmovant's
position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on
which the jury could conceivably find for the nonmovant.
Barber v. C1 Truck Driver Training, LLC, 656 F.3d
782, 791-92 (8th Cir. 2011). Where the record taken as a
whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the
nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.
Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042.
has sued BNSF, alleging violations of the Federal Railroad
Safety Act (FRSA) and the Federal Employers' Liability
Act (FELA). Logsdon generally alleges that BNSF breached its
non-delegable duty "to provide Plaintiff with a
reasonably safe place to work, " which contributed to
his September 2012 workplace injury. Filing 1 at 2-5. He
further contends that he was fired for reporting his injury
to his supervisor in violation of the FRSA. BNSF has moved
for summary judgment on both claims, which the Court will
address, in turn, below.
FELA claim is premised on his September 2012 injury, in which
Logsdon allegedly hurt his back and chest while pulling slip
paper from under a railcar. According to Logsdon, that injury
was due in whole or in part to BNSF's negligence in
failing to provide a reasonably safe work environment. BNSF
moves for summary judgment, ...