On Thursday the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed a $1,855,000 Copiah County jury verdict in a 7–2 decision in Lincoln Electric v. McLemore. Here is the Court’s opinion.

Facts:

This was a product liability failure to warn case involving a welder’s claim that exposure to welding fumes resulted in a neurological disease called manganism. The appeal turned on the statute of limitations.

The case was tired before Judge Lamar Pickard in November 2008.

Here are some of the key dates:

  • September 3, 2002: doctor diagnoses plaintiff with Parkinsonism and tells him it may be related to welding
  • February 2004: plaintiff began filing lawsuits claiming neurological injuries from exposure to welding products
  • October 2005: plaintiff diagnosed with manganism, which is related to welding
  • November 14, 2005: plaintiff filed complaint against defendants, but didn’t serve process
  • March 3, 2006: plaintiff filed amended complaint
  • March 14, 2006: plaintif served process on defendants

Plaintiff argued that since it was agreed that welding does not cause Parkinsons, his action arose when he learned that he had manganism in 2005. Defendants argued that plaintiff knew of his injury on September 3, 2002 when he was told that his Parkinsons may be related to welding.

Majority Opinion:

Justice Chandler wrote the majority opinion. The Court ruled that the decision was controlled by Angle v. Koppers, which I previously discussed in this post. In Angle the court ruled that an action accrues when the plaintiff learns of the injury, not the discovery of the injury and its cause.

The Court concluded that plaintiff knew that he had an injury in September 2002 when the doctor informed him that he had Parkinsonism that might be related to welding.

Dissent:

Justice Kitchens dissented in an opinion joined by Justice Graves. The dissent pointed out that the jury found that the plaintiff could not have discovered his injury until October 2005. Therefore, the case was timely filed according to the dissent.  

My take:

I’m not real enamored with the majority’s opinion. Was it proper for the trial court to submit the issue of when the plaintiff discovered his injury to the jury? The majority doesn’t say. I would have liked for the Court to address this question.

If it was proper to submit the issue to the jury, what is the basis for substituting the Court’s opinion for the jury’s on a question of fact? The majority doesn’t say.

Did everyone agree that Parkinsonism is not caused by welding fumes? If so, is it fair that a cause of action accrues when a doctor incorrectly tells a plaintiff that an illness may be related an activity that would give a plaintiff a claim? That seems odd.

So a plaintiff should file an action to preserve a possible claim based on an opinion from a doctor that the plaintiff knows is wrong? Wouldn’t that create Rule 11 issues?

Maybe I am missing something here.