Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-49 does not require a plaintiff to know the cause of the injury before accrual of the cause of action. Knowledge of the cause of an injury is irrelevant to the analysis. The inquiry is when the party knew or should have known of an injury. For that purpose, a court considers the actions taken by a party.
This case involves a welder's claim of product liability and failure to warn against Lincoln Electric Company (Lincoln) and the ESAB Group, Inc. (ESAB), manufacturers of welding rods ("Defendants"), for exposure to harmful welding fumes that resulted in his eventual diagnosis of manganism, a neurological disease caused by high exposure to manganese. The plaintiff, Stanley McLemore, alleged that he had used the Defendants' rods, which contained manganese, to weld materials together. McLemore filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Copiah County. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that McLemore had filed suit outside the three-year statute of limitations, which the Trial Court denied. The Defendants filed post-trial motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, in the alternative, for a new trial.
Were the claims of McLemore barred by the statute of limitations?
While McLemore's November 2008 trial preceded this Court's most recent application of Section 15-1-49(2), and the litigants and trial court did not have the benefit of this Court's decision in Angle v. Koppers, Inc., 42 So. 3d 1 (Miss. 2010), the case nonetheless is applicable to this appeal. In Angle, this Court determined that the plain language of Section 15-1-49 supports an interpretation "that the cause of action accrued upon discovery of the injury, not discovery of the injury and its cause."
Thus, applying Angle to the instant case, McLemore knew of his injury on September 3, 2002. At that time, Dr. Farina informed him of the correlation between his symptoms and welding. As clarified in Angle, Section 15-1-49 does not require a plaintiff to know the cause of the injury before accrual of the cause of action. Angle, 42 So. 3d at 6. While the notice of this causal relationship generally is irrelevant to the accrual of the cause of action, it shows McLemore's knowledge of his injury at that time. Furthermore, McLemore thereafter sought legal advice which resulted in an initial filing of a lawsuit in 2004 claiming "serious neurological injury" from exposure to manganese products. Consequently, McLemore's argument that he had no knowledge of his injury and its relation to welding until his diagnosis of manganism fails under this Court's holdings in Angle and Lowery. Under Angle, knowledge of the cause of an injury is irrelevant to the analysis. The inquiry is when the party knew or should have known of an injury. Further, applying Lowery, this Court considers the actions taken by a party.