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Dominic Belmonte v. New Jersey Transit Rail Operations

June 7, 2011

DOMINIC BELMONTE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY TRANSIT RAIL OPERATIONS, INC. (NJ TRANSIT), DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. L-3377-09.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 10, 2011

Before Judges Payne and Koblitz.

Plaintiff Dominic Belmonte appeals the trial court's May 14, 2010 order granting defendant New Jersey Transit Rail Operations, Inc. (NJ Transit) summary judgment and its June 25, 2010 order denying reconsideration of that order. After reviewing the record, we reverse and remand to the trial court because the reasons provided by the trial court were insufficient to allow us to evaluate the merits of the appeal.

Plaintiff, an employee of NJ Transit, brought this action under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C.A. §§ 51 to 60, to recover damages for shoulder injuries he sustained on December 4, 2007, when he slipped on ice while carrying a fifty-pound bag of salt down the cleaned and salted steps of the Chatham train station. He was wearing rubber shoe protectors, "grippies," supplied by NJ Transit and was working with a crew assigned to remove snow from train stations, platforms, steps and sidewalks. Plaintiff claimed in his complaint that NJ Transit's negligence in requiring him to carry heavy bags of salt down stairs caused his injury. NJ Transit moved for summary judgment.

Although defendant requested oral argument, the trial court decided defendant's motion for summary judgment on the papers,*fn1 in favor of defendant, writing reasons on the order as follows:

Court finding no genuine issue of material fact, and finding that under FELA case law the railroad has no liability.

After plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration without requesting oral argument, the court reviewed the papers and wrote its reason for denial on the order as follows:

Ordered that the motion for reconsideration is DENIED, the Court finding that the plaintiff failed to provide new information or controlling decisions . . . which the Court overlooked or erred.

Plaintiff raises the following issues on appeal:

1. STANDARD OF REVIEW UNDER FELA AND NEW JERSEY LAW FOR DETERMINING THAT THE COURT ERRED IN GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT.

a. THE GRANTING OF SUMMARY JUDGMENT WAS NOT WARRANTED UNDER FEDERAL SUBSTANTIVE LAW REGARDING THE FELA.

b. WHERE THERE IS EVIDENCE OF ALTERNATIVE METHODS OF DOING A JOB, THE QUESTION OF WHETHER DEFENDANT'S CHOICE ...


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