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HITCHCOCK v. AMTRAK

September 28, 1998

HENRY HITCHCOCK, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORP., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOMER

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

 Plaintiff, Henry Hitchcock ("Hitchcock") brings this action against his former employer, National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak"), pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. The complaint alleges that Amtrak negligently failed to provide Hitchcock with a safe work environment and appropriate work tools and that as a result, Hitchcock now suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome ("CTS"). *fn1" Compl., § 3. Presently pending is Amtrak's motion for summary judgment. Docket No. 18. For the reasons which follow, the motion is granted.

 I. Background

 Hitchcock began his employment with Amtrak on January 4, 1979 as a machinist. Pl.'s Resp. to Interrogs. (Bonventre Decl. (Docket No. 20), Ex. E), P 2. He continued in Amtrak's employ until his resignation in February 1992. Id. As a machinist, Hitchcock performed several different types of work, all of which required extensive work with his hands. Compl., P 3.

 This action was originally commenced in a Pennsylvania state court on March 1, 1995. Bonventre Decl., Ex. A. Pursuant to a stipulation of the parties, that action was discontinued and the parties agreed that if the action was refiled within six months in another jurisdiction, the refiled action would be deemed filed as of March 1, 1995. Bonventre Decl., Ex. A. Hitchcock then filed this action within that six month window and this action is thus deemed commenced as of March 1, 1995.

 II. Summary Judgment Standard

 Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), if there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, . . . where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact exists. FDIC v. Giammettei, 34 F.3d 51, 54 (2d Cir. 1994); see also Heyman v. Commerce & Indus. Ins. Co., 524 F.2d 1317, 1320 (2d Cir. 1975). Once the movant has come forward with sufficient evidence in support of the motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial" and cannot rest on "mere allegations or denials" of the facts asserted by the movant. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Rexnord Holdings, Inc. v. Bidermann, 21 F.3d 522, 525-26 (2d Cir. 1994).

 The trial court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. American Cas. Co. of Reading, Pa. v. Nordic Leasing, Inc., 42 F.3d 725, 728 (2d Cir. 1994); see also Eastway Constr. Corp. v. City of New York, 762 F.2d 243, 249 (2d Cir. 1985). "Furthermore, the non-movant 'will have his allegations taken as true, and will receive the benefit of the doubt when his assertions conflict with those of the movant.'" Samuels v. Mockry, 77 F.3d 34, 36 (2d Cir. 1996) (citations omitted).

 III. Discussion

 Amtrak's motion raises two grounds on which it contends summary judgment should be granted. First, it contends that Hitchcock's claim is barred by a release given to Amtrak in consideration for settlement of earlier litigation. Second, Amtrak asserts that Hitchcock's instant claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Because this action is barred by the FELA limitation period, Amtrak's argument concerning the release need not be considered.

 A. FELA Statute of Limitations

 FELA claims are governed by a three year statute of limitations. 45 U.S.C. § 56. As with any limitation period, this period begins to run at the time the cause of action accrues. Under the FELA, accrual has two components -- injury and causation. Tolston v. National R.R. Passenger Corp., 102 F.3d 863, 865 (7th Cir. 1996). When the injury complained of is clear and occurred on a date certain, the time of accrual is obvious. See Albert v. Maine Cent. R.R. Co., 905 F.2d 541, 543 (1st Cir. 1990). However, "when the specific date of injury cannot be determined because an injury results from continual exposure to a harmful condition over a period of time a plaintiff's cause of action accrues when the injury manifests itself." Fries v. Chicago & Northwestern Transp. Co., 909 F.2d 1092, 1094 (7th Cir. 1990) (citing Urie v. Thompson, 337 U.S. 163, 170, 93 L. Ed. 1282, 69 S. Ct. 1018 (1949)).

 Although the Second Circuit has not addressed accrual in these circumstances, the other circuits to have considered the question have unanimously adopted a discovery rule. See Tolston, 102 F.3d at 865; Aparicio v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co., 84 F.3d 803, 814-15 (6th Cir. 1996); Bealer v. Missouri Pac. R.R. Co., 951 F.2d 38, 39 (5th Cir. 1991); Albert, 905 F.2d at 543; Townley v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co., 887 F.2d 498, 501 (4th Cir. 1989). Under this rule, a FELA claim accrues when a reasonable person knew or should have known of both his ...


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