United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
E. Payne Senior United States District Judge
Franklin Echols, Jr., a Virginia inmate proceeding pro
se and in forma pauperis, has filed this action
pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act
("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. §§ 51 et
seq. The matter is before the Court on the
Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc.
("CSX") (ECF No. 25); Echols's Motion to Leave
and Amend ("Motion to Amend, " ECF No. 36); and
CSX's Second Motion to Stay Proceedings (ECF No. 38) .
For the reasons stated below, because the action is barred by
the statute of limitations, the Court will grant the Motion
to Dismiss, deny the Motion to Amend, and deny as moot the
Second Motion to Stay Proceedings.
STANDARD FOR MOTION TO DISMISS
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency
of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C.
v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing 5A
Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In
considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
a plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations are taken as true
and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d
1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin, 980
F.2d at 952. This principle applies only to factual
allegations, however, and "a court considering a motion
to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that,
because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled
to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "require only 'a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to 'give
the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (second alteration
in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41,
47 (1957)). Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with
complaints containing only "labels and conclusions"
or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action." Id. (citations omitted). Instead, a
plaintiff must allege facts sufficient "to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level, " id.
(citation omitted), stating a claim that is "plausible
on its face, " id. at 570, rather than merely
"conceivable." Id. "A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl.
Corp., 550 U.S. at 556) . In order for a claim or
complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim,
the plaintiff must "allege facts sufficient to state all
the elements of [his or] her claim." Bass v. E.I.
DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir.
2003) (citing Dickson v. Microsoft Corp., 309 F.3d
193, 213 (4th Cir. 2002); Iodice v. United States,
289 F.3d 270, 281 (4th Cir. 2002)). Lastly, while the Court
liberally construes pro se complaints, Gordon v.
Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), it will not
act as the inmate's advocate and develop, sua
sponte, statutory and constitutional claims that the
inmate failed to clearly raise on the face of his complaint.
See Brock v. Carroll, 107 F.3d 241, 243 (4th Cir.
1997) (Luttig, J., concurring); Beaudett v. City of
Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
SUMMARY OF ALLEGATIONS
was employed by CSX's Engineering Department as a
trackman from April of 1981 until September of 1997, when he
was arrested on felony charges. (Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No.
During his employment, Echols "was constantly exposed to
airborne coal and rock dust while performing his daily
assigned tasks . . . ." (Id. ¶ 6.) Echols
On or about September of 2012, Plaintiff began to experience
serious respiratory complications that got progressively
worse as the days went on. Prior to this time Plaintiff was
in good health. These difficulties worried him intensely.
Plaintiff discovered that black lung, silicosis and pulmonary
disease can cause these respiratory conditions, since his
only possible exposure to coal and rock dust was during the
period of his employment with the railroad. On October
7th, 2012, Plaintiff contacted the CSX
headquarters located at 500 Water Street Jacksonville,
Florida 32202 in an effort to obtain the name and address of
the Union that represented him during the period of his
employment with the railroad.
After diligently researching the symptoms and causes of black
lung, silicosis or other pulmonary lung disease, Plaintiff
came to the belief that he contracted this occupational
disease and that the accumulated effects of the deleterious
substances, coal and rock dust, began to manifest itself in
his respiratory complications. CSX records clearly show that
the railroad had conducted silicosis testing on its employees
including Plaintiff in the mid-1990 [s] without notifying
Plaintiff of the purpose for the testing or any positive
results. On October 28, 2012 and January 15, 2013, Plaintiff
contacted his Union representative by U.S. mail in an effort
to obtain the results of silicosis testing conducted by CSX,
to no avail. On July 1st, 2013, Plaintiff directly
contacted CSX headquarters by U.S. mail to obtain the results
of silicosis lung testing during the period of his
(Id. ¶¶ 7-8 (paragraph numbers omitted).)
On July 25, 2013, the medical department at Nottoway
Correctional Center ordered that Echols undergo diagnostic
lung testing. (Id. ¶ 9.) Subsequently, Echols
"was diagnosed with a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Lung
Disorder caused by railroad dust conditions."
Complaint raises the following claims for relief:
Claim One: "Violation of Federal Safety Appliance Act 45
U.S.C.S. 1-16 and Occupational Safety and Health Act
subsection 1910.134 regulations." (Id. at
Claim Two: "Negligen[t] exposure to harmful and
hazardous coal and rock dust." (Id. at 9.)
Claim Three: "Emotional distress and mental
anguish." (Id. at 14.)
seeks $800, 000.00 in compensatory and punitive damages.
(Id. at 16.)
moves to dismiss Echols's Complaint as barred by the
applicable statute of limitations. (Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss
1, 7-9, ECF No. 26.) CSX also opposes Echols's Motion to
Amend, asserting that the Proposed Amended Complaint is
futile because it would still be barred by the statute of
limitations. (Br. Opp. Mot. Amend 1, ECF No. 3 7.) As
discussed below, the Court agrees that Echols's Complaint
is untimely. The Court also agrees that Echols's Motion
to Amend is futile, as well as
Statute of Limitations Governing FELA Actions
"No action shall be maintained under [FELA] unless
commenced within three years from the day the cause of action
accrued." 45 U.S.C. § 56. "[T]his statute of
limitations is not an affirmative defense; instead,
compliance with 45 U.S.C. § 56 is a condition precedent
to recovery under the Act. Failure to bring suit within the
statutory period 'destroys the employer's
liability' and bars the claimant's recovery."
Johnson v. Norfolk & W. Ry. Co., No. 92-1719,
1993 WL 17061, at *1 (4th Cir. Jan. 28, 1993) (quoting
Emmons v. S. Pac. Transp. Co., 701 F.2d 1112, 1117
(5th Cir. 1983)). "The burden is therefore on the
claimant to allege and to prove that his cause of action was
commenced within the three-year period." Id.
(quoting Emmons, 701 F.2d at 1118); see Cash v. Norfolk
S. Ry. Co., No. 6:13-CV-00056, ...