The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLLAK
LOUIS H. POLLAK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Defendant Sohio Oil Company ("Sohio") (erroneously identified in plaintiffs' complaint as Standard Oil Corporation and B.P. Oil, Inc.), has moved for summary judgment based on plaintiffs' alleged failure to file a complaint within the applicable statute of limitations. Additional defendant Broadbent's Spray Rentals (erroneously identified in plaintiffs' complaint as "Broad Bench Spray Rentals"), third-party defendant Somers Construction Company, and fourth-party defendant C.H. Heist Corporation have joined in this motion.
Mr. Ciferni was an employee of Henkels & McCoy, Inc. ("Henkels"), a company that subcontracted to Sohio to clean equipment at Sohio's Marcus Hook refinery. Plaintiffs claim that during the approximately four weeks in January 1985 that Anthony Ciferni cleaned equipment at Sohio, he inhaled from the cleaning materials allegedly dangerous levels of glycol that damaged his heart. Mr. Ciferni had no previous history of cardiac problems. After suffering pain after work on February 1, 1985, Mr. Ciferni was hospitalized and diagnosed as having suffered a myocardial infarction. On February 3, 1985, he had a second heart attack and underwent cardiac catheterization and a double bypass procedure.
Plaintiffs filed their personal injury complaint in state court on June 2, 1987;
defendants removed the action to this court. Sohio now moves for summary judgment, alleging that the complaint is barred by the two-year statute of limitations applicable to this personal injury action pursuant to 42 Pa C.S. § 5524(2). Sohio contends that, as early as March 19, 1985, over two years before filing his complaint, Mr. Ciferni was aware of the alleged connection between his inhalation of glycol and his heart attack. Plaintiffs contend that Mr. Ciferni was informed of this connection only in June or July of 1985. Plaintiffs' reply, at 2.
Because the cause of a heart attack is not necessarily readily apparent, the statute of limitations period may well commence after the date of injury. "The rule in Pennsylvania is that the limitations period begins to run from the time that the plaintiff knows or reasonably should know the cause of his injury." Bayless v. Philadelphia National League Club, 579 F.2d 37, 39 (3d Cir. 1978). Pennsylvania law further breaks down a plaintiff's knowledge into "three independent phases" that must be known or knowable to the plaintiff before the limitations period commences: "(1) knowledge of the injury ; (2) knowledge of the operative cause of the injury; and (3) knowledge of the causative relationship between the injury and the operative conduct." O'Brien v. Eli Lilly & Co., 668 F.2d 704 (3d Cir. 1981) (quoting Volpe v. Johns-Manville Corp., 4 Pa. Co. Ct. Rep. 290 (Phila. C.P. 1980)).
By the time of Mr. Ciferni's heart attacks in early February 1985, plaintiffs were aware of both the injury and the circumstances under which Mr. Ciferni had been exposed to glycol at Sohio's refinery. The sole issue upon which this summary judgment motion rests is the factual question of when Mr. Ciferni knew or should have known of the alleged causative relationship between glycol and his injury.
Summary judgment is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) when
the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c). The dispute about a fact is "genuine" if there is sufficient evidence for a jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986).
Sohio presents the following evidence to support its contention that Mr. Ciferni in fact knew of the alleged causal connection of glycol to heart damage by March 19, 1985.
On March 18, 1985 Mr. Ciferni's employer, Henkels, filed an Employer's Report of Occupational Injury or Disease. Sohio Motion, Exh. A. The two-page form reports an occupational injury for the purposes of obtaining workers' compensation. Question 32 asks:
How Did Injury Occur ? (Describe Fully the Events Which Resulted in Injury or Disease. Tell What Happened and How It Happened. Name Any Objects or Substances Involved and Tell How They were Involved. Give Full Details on All Factors Which Led or Contributed to Injury or Disease.)
An attached page to the form provides the answer to question 32, stating in full: