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Robinson v. Mine Safety Appliances Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 3, 2015

Hershel Lee Robinson, Plaintiff - Appellant,
Mine Safety Appliances Company, Defendant - Appellee, American Optical Corporation; 3M Company; Pangborn Corporation; Clark Sand Company, Inc.; Dependable Abrasives, Inc., Defendants, Precision Packaging, Inc., Defendant - Appellee, Morie Company; Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel Company, Defendants, E.D. Bullard Company, Defendant - Appellee, Empire Abrasive Equipment Corporation; Empire Abrasive Equipment Company LP, Defendants, Clemco Industries, Inc., Defendant - Appellee, Schmidt Manufacturing, Inc.; Bob Schmidt, Inc.; Pauli & Griffin Company; Kelco Sales & Engineering Company; Mississippi Valley Silica Co. Inc.; Standard Sand & Silica Company; Unimin Corporation; Vulcan Materials Company; Jane & John Does, 1-500; Doe Corporation, John & Jane 1-491, Defendants

Submitted April 17, 2015

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Pine Bluff.

For Hershel Lee Robinson, Plaintiff - Appellant: John T. Givens, Patrick Cash Malouf Sr., Timothy W. Porter, Porter & Malouf, Jackson, MS; David Neil McCarty, David Neil Mccarty Law Firm, Jackson, MS; Robert Allen Smith Jr., Smith Law Firm, Pllc, Ridgeland, MS.

For Mine Safety Appliances Company, Defendant - Appellee: Matthew Robert Dowd, Charles R. Wilbanks Jr., Adams & Reese, Ridgeland, MS; Jason Eric Sharp, Brunini & Grantham, Columbus, MS; Glen Austin Stewart, Brunini & Grantham, Jackson, MS.

For Precision Packaging, Inc., Clemco Industries, Inc., Defendants - Appellees: Mary Clift Hitt Abdalla, Christine Crockett White, Fred Krutz, Daniel J. Mulholland, Forman & Perry, Jackson, MS.

For E.D. Bullard Company, Defendant - Appellee: Steve Allan Bryant, Steve A. Bryant & Associates, Montgomery, TX; Don Michael Huckabay Jr., Kathryn Bess Knisley, James Tucker Sayes, Huckabay Law Firm, Little Rock, AR; Thomas McHale, Law Office of Thomas Mchale, The Woodlands, TX.

Before WOLLMAN and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges, and GRITZNER,[1] District Judge.


GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

Hershel Robinson, a former sandblaster, claimed various defendants were responsible for damage to his lungs. The district court[2] concluded that Robinson's suit was time-barred under Arkansas's three-year statute of limitations for product-liability suits. We affirm.

Robinson worked as a sandblaster for decades, spraying surfaces with sand to scour them before painting. This sand sometimes breaks down into silica dust, which, if inhaled, can cause the incurable lung disease silicosis. Robinson does not claim that he was otherwise exposed to silica dust, which is the only cause of silicosis.

By 1997, Robinson knew that sandblasting could cause silicosis. The next year he saw his primary doctor, Vanessa Ragland, after coughing up white mucus. In 2002, he went to the doctor again, this time for bronchitis.

By the middle of 2007, three doctors suspected, believed, or had information reflecting that Robinson had silicosis. In February of that year, Robinson went to an emergency room for chest pain. The radiology report from that visit lists three possible explanations: tuberculosis, sarcoidosis (another disease that usually affects the lungs), or one of the pneumonoconioses--diseases such as silicosis that are caused by inhaling certain dusts. The next day, Robinson saw Dr. Ragland, and she referred him to a respiratory specialist, Dr. Albert Lynn Ridgeway. Dr. Ridgeway " encouraged [Robinson] to wear his . . . mask," and his medical notes reflect an " impression" of " silicosis related to sandblasting." Robinson saw Dr. Ridgeway again that summer. The notes from the summer visit explain that " Mr. Robinson returns today to follow up his silicosis." And these notes too list an " impression" of silicosis. Dr. Ridgeway sent a copy of his notes from the first visit back to Dr. Ragland.

In 2011, Dr. Ridgeway biopsied some of Robinson's lung. According to Robinson, this was when Dr. Ridgeway first told him he had silicosis.

Finally, in 2012, Robinson sued more than a thousand entities that either " sold, designed, manufactured, or marketed . . . silica related products," alleging that they were responsible for his silicosis. The district court eventually ruled the suit ...

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