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Stahle v. CTS Corp.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

September 17, 2015, Argued; March 2, 2016, Decided

No. 15-1001

Opinion

 [*98]  FLOYD, Circuit Judge:

At issue in this appeal is the scope of North Carolina General Statutes Section 1-52(16), which at the relevant time provided:

] Unless otherwise provided by statute, for personal injury or physical damage to claimant's [**2]  property, the cause of action, except in causes of actions referred to in G.S. 1-15(c), shall not accrue until bodily harm to the claimant or physical damage to his property becomes apparent or ought reasonably to have become apparent to the claimant, whichever event first occurs. Provided that no cause of action shall accrue more than 10 years from the last act or omission of the defendant giving rise to the cause of action.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina has explained that ] this statute "establishes what is commonly referred to as the discovery rule, which tolls the running of the statute of limitations for torts resulting in certain latent injuries," although "such actions remain subject to the [10-year] statute of repose provision." Misenheimer v. Burris, 360 N.C. 620, 637 S.E.2d 173, 175-76 (N.C. 2006).

Appellant Kent Stahle was diagnosed with leukemia. He subsequently brought a complaint against Appellee CTS Corporation (CTS). Stahle alleges that CTS was responsible for dumping toxic solvents from an Asheville-area manufacturing plant into a local stream, and that childhood exposure to the contaminated stream water many years ago caused his leukemia. The district court dismissed Stahle's complaint, holding that the statute of repose in Section 1-52(16) barred [**3]  his action.

We disagree. The Supreme Court of North Carolina has not yet directly resolved whether Section 1-52(16) applies to disease claims. As ] a federal court sitting in diversity faced with an unresolved question  [*99]  of state law, we must predict how the question would be decided by that state's highest court. Because we understand that ] under North Carolina law a disease is not a "latent injury," we conclude that the Supreme Court of North Carolina would not find Section 1-52(16) applicable to Stahle's claim. Accordingly, we reverse and remand the case to the district court for further proceedings.

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817 F.3d 96 *; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 3861 **

KENT STAHLE, Plaintiff - Appellant, v. CTS CORPORATION, Defendant - Appellee.NORTH CAROLINA ADVOCATES FOR JUSTICE, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, at Asheville. (1:14-cv-00048-MOC-DLH). Max O. Cogburn, Jr., District Judge.

Stahle v. CTS Corp., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 168085 (W.D.N.C., Dec. 4, 2014)

Disposition: REVERSED AND REMANDED.

CORE TERMS

disease, statute of repose, personal injury, latent injury, cause of action, claimant, cases, accrue, limitations, three year, ambiguity, quotation, district court, unambiguous, sentence, becomes, words, statute of limitations, certification, dicta, federal court, highest court, civil action, bodily harm, omission, argues, criminal conversation, personal injury claim, provided by statute, last act

Torts, Statute of Limitations, Tolling, Discovery Rule, Procedural Matters, Statute of Repose, Personal Injury, Statute of Repose, Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Federal & State Interrelationships, Erie Doctrine, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Responses, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Business & Corporate Law, Corporations, Dissolution & Receivership, Corporate Governance, Shareholders, Shareholder Duties & Liabilities, Pleading & Practice, Pleadings, Amendment of Pleadings, Jurisdiction, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Statute of Limitations, Judicial Precedent, Dicta