887 F.2d 498 (4th Cir. 1989), 88-2882, Townley v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co.

Docket Nº:88-2882.
Citation:887 F.2d 498
Party Name:Basy Thomas TOWNLEY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. NORFOLK & WESTERN RAILWAY COMPANY; Norfolk Southern Corporation, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:October 19, 1989
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 498

887 F.2d 498 (4th Cir. 1989)

Basy Thomas TOWNLEY, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

NORFOLK & WESTERN RAILWAY COMPANY; Norfolk Southern

Corporation, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 88-2882.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

October 19, 1989

Argued March 9, 1989.

Page 499

Roger John Greezicki (Irving Schwartzman, Savage & Schwartzman, P.A., Baltimore, Md., David T. Kennedy, Thornhill, Kennedy & Vaughan, Beckley, W.Va., on brief), for plaintiff-appellant.

Wade Thomas Watson (Sanders, Watson & White, Bluefield, W.Va., on brief), for defendants-appellees.

Before WIDENER, PHILLIPS, and WILKINS, Circuit Judges.

WIDENER, Circuit Judge:

This case comes to us on appeal from the district court's judgment on a directed verdict in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff-appellant, Basy Townley, sued Norfolk & Western under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. Secs. 51, et seq., for injuries resulting from his work as a yard brakeman at the defendants' Bluefield, W.Va., Yard from 1948 to 1979. Townley suffers from pneumoconiosis, more commonly referred to as black lung. The district court found that Townley's claim was barred by the statute of limitations and granted a directed verdict. We agree and affirm.

On appeal, Townley contends that the district court erred in entering a directed verdict after he produced sufficient evidence to create an issue of fact for the jury on the question of the date of accrual of his cause of action. He argues that the district court applied an incorrect legal standard for determining when a cause of action accrues under FELA.

In its opinion the district court correctly recognized that, when considering a motion for a directed verdict, it must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Townley v. Norfolk & Western Railway Co., 690 F.Supp. 1513 (S.D.W.Va.1988); Smith Braedon Co. v. Hadid, 825 F.2d 787, 790 (4th Cir.1987). The court then must determine whether a reasonable trier of fact could draw only one conclusion from the evidence. We also must apply these standards when reviewing a district court's entry of a directed verdict; our review is de novo. 825 F.2d at 790.

The district court found that Townley's evidence revealed that he had worked for more than thirty years in coal dust. Townley testified that he worked in and around clouds of coal dust every day, that he often was covered in coal dust and that he breathed the dust into his lungs. Townley also testified that he frequently coughed up coal dust. According to Townley, he suffered from respiratory problems for about ten years before he suffered a heart attack in 1979 and retired on disability. During this ten-year period, Townley said his personal physician treated him for diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, but his doctor never told him he had black lung. Townley further stated that his doctor possessed neither the expertise nor the equipment to make an accurate black lung...

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