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Ribbing v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

January 3, 2020

CAROL RIBBING, as the personal representative of the Estate of Gregory Ribbing, deceased; Plaintiff,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Joseph F. Bataillon Senior United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment, Filing No. 15, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The Estate of Gregory Ribbing (“the Estate”) filed a Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. §§ 51-60 action which alleges that Gregory Ribbing died from exposure to toxins while working at Union Pacific causing him to develop multiple myeloma.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant served requests for admissions on plaintiff's counsel on March 25, 2019. Plaintiff failed to timely respond to these admissions. Union Pacific moved for summary judgment on July 31, 2019, Filing No. 15, and on August 20, 2019, plaintiff moved to withdraw or amend the deemed admissions to the requests for admissions, Filing No. 18. The brief addressed the issue of failure to respond to admissions.

         Defendant contends that plaintiff failed to timely respond to requests for admissions. Thus, the Court should determine that plaintiff thereby admits that she had a reasonably safe place to work and that the workplace exposures did not cause or contribute to decedent's multiple myeloma.

         Under Rule 36, a party may serve on the opposing party “a written request to admit, for purposes of the pending action only, the truth of any matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1) relating to: (A) facts, the application of law to fact, or opinions about either; and (B) the genuineness of any described documents.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(1). The responding party may admit the request, deny it, state that the party lacks the ability to admit or deny it after a reasonable investigation, or object to it. Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a) (4-5). A request served under Rule 36 “is admitted unless, within 30 days after being served, the party to whom the request is directed serves on the requesting party a written answer or objection addressed to the matter and signed by the party or its attorney.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(3).

         The magistrate determined that the request for admissions was deemed admitted by the Estate. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36(b) states:

Effect of an Admission; Withdrawing or Amending It. A matter admitted under this rule is conclusively established unless the court, on motion, permits the admission to be withdrawn or amended. Subject to Rule 16(e), the court may permit withdrawal or amendment if it would promote the presentation of the merits of the action and if the court is not persuaded that it would prejudice the requesting party in maintaining or defending the action on the merits. An admission under this rule is not an admission for any other purpose and cannot be used against the party in any other proceeding.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(b). To make a determination, the magistrate judge analyzed the reasons for denying the request to amend each admission. The magistrate concluded that each motion to amend should be denied on the merits, should be denied for plaintiff's counsel's failure to provide reasons for the late and missed filings, and should be denied for a continued pattern of failure to timely prosecute these cases. Filing No. 26, entered October 9, 2019. Plaintiff did not file any objection to or appeal of the memorandum and order.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         “Summary judgment is appropriate 'if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."' Foster v. BNSF Ry. Co., 866 F.3d 962, 966 (8th Cir.2017) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). "Summary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed 'to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action."' Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 1).

         “The movant bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, 'and must identify those portions of the record] . . . which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact."' Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042, (8th Cir. 20ll) (en banc) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). If the movant meets the initial burden, "the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."' Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). "The nonmovant 'must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,' and must come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."' Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmovant' s] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [nonmovant]." Barber v. Cl Truck Driver Training, LLC, 656 F.3d 782, 791-92 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.5. 242, 252 (1986)).

         DISCUSSION

         Based on the above background, pending now before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment. Defendant contends that because the admissions are exclusively established, plaintiff can no longer prove that defendant failed to provide plaintiff with a reasonable safe place to work and that the occupational exposures did not cause his cancer. SeeLuick v. Graybar Elec. Co., 473 F.2d 1360, 1361 (8th Cir. 1973); “It is well settled that a failure to respond to requests for admission is deemed to be an admission ...


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