Burnett v. New York Central R. Co

In Burnett v. New York Central R. Co., 380 U.S. 424, 85 S. Ct. 1050, 13 L. Ed. 2d 941 (1965), the plaintiff filed a FELA action "in the Common Pleas Court of Hamilton County, Ohio" which was dismissed on the defendant's motion for improper venue. Id. at 424, 13 L. Ed. 2d at 943. The plaintiff promptly filed an identical claim in the proper federal court; however, although his original suit was timely, by the time his claim was dismissed for improper venue and then refiled, the statute of limitations had expired. The federal district court judge dismissed plaintiff's claim, and the United States Supreme Court reversed. In Burnett, the Supreme Court observed that it previously had "expressly held that the FELA limitation period is not totally inflexible, but, under appropriate circumstances, it may be extended beyond three years. . . . The basic inquiry is whether congressional purpose is effectuated by tolling the statute of limitations in given circumstances." Id. at 427, 13 L. Ed. 2d at 945. The Court held that the plaintiff's timely filing of a FELA claim had tolled the statute of limitations during the pendency of that action: In order to determine congressional intent, we must examine the purposes and policies underlying the limitation provision, and the Act itself. . . . We conclude that it effectuates the basic congressional purposes in enacting this humane and remedial Act . . . to hold that when a plaintiff begins a timely FELA action in a state court of competent jurisdiction . . . and the state court action is later dismissed because of improper venue, the FELA limitation is tolled during the pendency of the state action. Id. at 427-28, 13 L. Ed. 2d at 945.