On Thursday in a 7–2 decision the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the Grenada County Circuit Court’s grant of summary judgment in Angle v. Koppers, Inc. Here is the Court’s opinion. Justice Lamar wrote the Court’s opinion joined by Chief Justice Waller and Justices Carlson, Dickinson, Randolph, Chandler and Pierce.
The case was a toxic tort case where plaintiff claimed to suffer injuries as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals. The most recent of plaintiff’s claimed injuries occurred in 2001. Plaintiff filed suit in 2005.
Plaintiff argued that the statute of limitations began to run when she discovered that her medical problems were the result of exposure to toxic chemicals. Defendants argued that the statute of limitations began to run when plaintiff was diagnosed with her illnesses. The Court agreed with the defendants.
The Court’s decision was based on its interpretation of this provision in Mississippi’s general statute of limitations, Miss. Code Ann. 15–1–49:
(2) In actions for which no other period of limitations is prescribed and which involve latent injury or disease, the cause of action does not accrue until the plaintiff has discovered, or by reasonable diligence should have discovered, the injury.
The Court noted that the statute does not state discovery of the injury and its cause. The Court also pointed out that medical malpractice cases are governed by a different statute and discovery rule.
Justice Kitchens dissented and was joined by Justice Graves. The dissent argued that the statute cannot begin to run until a plaintiff is aware of all four elements of a negligence claim, including causation. Therefore, the dissent argued that the statute did not begin to run until the plaintiff discovered that her illnesses were caused by the exposure to the toxic chemicals.
Chris Shapely and a bunch of other lawyers represented defendants. Elizabeth Carlyle and and bunch of other lawyers represented the plaintiff.