Young v. Clinchfield Railroad Company

In Young v. Clinchfield Railroad Company, 288 F.2d 499, 500 (4th Cir. 1961), the appellee, a former railroad worker, brought a FELA action claiming that he developed silicosis from inhaling silica during the course of his employment with the appellant, a railroad company. On appeal, the appellant complained that the district court erred in deciding as a matter of law that the appellee's claim was not time-barred. Id. The appellant argued that, "although a medical diagnosis of silicosis was not made until August, 1956, less than three years before suit was filed, there was evidence tending to show that the appellee should have known his condition earlier. The appellant relied on the fact that the appellee quit his job in the summer of 1954, partly at least because of shortness of breath. The appellant reasons that as the appellee came from a mining region where silicosis is fairly common, he is to be charged with knowing that shortness of breath is one of the symptoms of this disease, and hence the appellee had reason to know as early as 1954 that he had contracted silicosis." Id. at 503. Because (1) the appellee had complained of several ailments, in addition to shortness of breath prior to terminating his employment with the appellant, (2) shortness of breath was indicative of medical conditions other than silicosis, and (3) no physician prior to the appellee's diagnosis intimated that the appellee had developed the disease despite the appellee's "frequent sojourns to the hospital," the Court concluded that the appellee was not reasonably expected to know of his condition. Id. at 503-04. Accordingly, the Court held that the district court properly refused to submit the issue of limitations to the jury. Id. at 504.