238 F.3d 772 (6th Cir. 2001), 99-2245, Campbell v Grand Truck Western Railroad

Docket Nº:99-2245
Citation:238 F.3d 772
Party Name:Robert Campbell, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Grand Trunk Western Railroad Company, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:January 29, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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238 F.3d 772 (6th Cir. 2001)

Robert Campbell, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Grand Trunk Western Railroad Company, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 99-2245

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

January 29, 2001

Argued: November 30, 2000

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Ann Arbor. No. 98-60351, George C. Steeh, District Judge.

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Patrick J. Hagerty, GRAY & RITTER, St. Louis, Missouri, for Appellant.

Mary C. O'Donnell, Patrick K. Moore, DURKIN, McDONNELL, CLIFTON, DAVIS & O'DONNELL, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellee.

Before: WELLFORD, SILER, and BATCHELDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

HARRY W. WELLFORD, Circuit Judge.

Robert E. Campbell has sued his former employer, Grand Trunk Western Railroad Company ("Grand Trunk"), pursuant to the Federal Employers Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51, et seq. ("FELA"), for injuries he claimed to have sustained while working as a rail car repairman for Grand Trunk. The district court granted summary judgment based upon the defendant's argument that Campbell's claim is barred by FELA's three-year statute of limitations. The district court granted the motion, finding that the facts, when viewed in a light most favorable to Campbell, supported its conclusion that the cause of action began to accrue some time prior to September 4, 1995, three years before the date of filing of the lawsuit. The district court also denied Campbell's motion for additional discovery and an amended scheduling order. Campbell filed this appeal in a timely fashion. We shall AFFIRM the decision of the district court.

Plaintiff Campbell worked as a rail car repairman for Grand Trunk in its Port Huron (Michigan) Car Shop from 1970 to 1995. Between 1990 and 1995, he worked in the "truck gang." His last day of work was October 16, 1995, just weeks before Grand Trunk closed its Port Huron shop, which was sold to PDS Rail Car Services Corporation ("PDS"). The shop reopened in 1996 and PDS hired many of the former Grand Trunk employees, including Campbell. Campbell continued to perform the same type of work as he did for Grand Trunk. During the fourteen months between working for Grand Trunk and PDS, Campbell worked for Moretz Carpet Cleaning Service.

On September 4, 1998, Campbell filed the action below pursuant to FELA, claiming personal injuries due to the negligence of Grand Trunk1. Campbell asserted that

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in October of 1995, he sustained injuries to his back and neck, and that he developed carpel tunnel syndrome ("CTS") while working for Grand Trunk. Campbell was diagnosed with CTS in April of 1998, after allegations of having constantly worked in awkward positions beneath railroad cars and having used a welding torch and sledgehammer. Campbell alleged that Grand Trunk was negligent in failing to provide safe work methods, tools and equipment, adequate assistance, and in requiring employees to work in awkward positions for extended periods of time. Campbell sought substantial damages.

Grand Trunk moved for summary judgment. Prior to the hearing date on the motion, Campbell moved the court to continue the hearing and to issue a new scheduling order for trial and pretrial procedures. He argued that because Grand Trunk had delayed producing witnesses and documents in response to a Rule 30(b)(6) notice, it was premature to decide the summary judgment motion. Also, Campbell requested the court to allow him to take further depositions of his medical providers to address the issue of medical causation, an issue in the controversy.

The district court denied Campbell's motion for a continuance and granted Grand Trunk's motion for summary judgment. The district court held that Campbell's claims based on his CTS were barred by FELA's three-year statute of limitations. See 45 U.S.C. § 56 ("No action shall be maintained under [§ 51 of the FELA] unless commenced within three years from the day the cause of action accrued ...."). The district court considered Campbell's deposition testimony that he experienced tingling and pain in his hands on a daily basis when he worked with the power tools at Grand Trunk from 1990 and into later years to be critical. The district court held specifically:

[R]easonable minds could not differ that plaintiff was in possession of critical facts of both his carpal tunnel syndrome injury and the governing cause of the injury in 1994. Plaintiff's deposition testimony establishes that in 1993-1994, plaintiff knew: (1) he was experiencing tingling and numbness on a daily basis, and (2) the tingling and pain was caused by his working with power tools. Plaintiff admitted the tingling and numbness began when he used power tools, and that the sensations subsided about an hour after he stopped using the tools. Possessing these facts, reasonable diligence on plaintiff's part would have led plaintiff to conclude that he had been injured as the result of using [Grand Trunk's] power tools.

In addition, the district court concluded that Campbell had "failed to come forward with a scintilla of evidence that could possibly be construed by a reasonable jury as proving a causal connection between plaintiff's alleged neck injury and [Grand Trunk's] negligence."2

The district court also denied Campbell's motion for a new trial or reconsideration. Campbell filed this timely appeal, challenging only the district court's determination with respect to the statute of limitations, and its denial of the motion for a continuance. Campbell does not challenge directly the district court's decision that no evidence supported his claim that Grand Trunk negligently caused his neck injury3.

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We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, viewing all the evidence and inferences therefrom in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Mounts v. Grand Trunk W. R.R., 198 F.3d 578, 580 (6th Cir. 2000). The moving party must show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and the nonmoving party must then come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. The nonmoving party may not rest on the mere allegations in the pleadings. Id. Where, as in this case, summary judgment was granted on statute-of-limitations grounds, we must determine whether (1) the statute of limitations has run and (2) whether there exists a genuine issue of material fact as to when the plaintiff's cause of action accrued. See Fries v. Chicago & Northwestern Transp. Co., 909 F.2d 1092, 1094 (7th Cir. 1990). Because the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, the burden is on the defendant to show that the statute of limitations has run. If the defendant meets this requirement then the burden shifts to the plaintiff to establish an exception to the statute of limitations. See Drazan v. United States, 762 F.2d 56, 60 (7th Cir. 1985).

The parties agree that the applicable period under the FELA...

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