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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: Near the end of his forty years of employment with Kilgore Ceramics, Johnny Youngblood developed respiratory problems. He eventually retired and learned his breathing difficulties were caused by the work-related illness, “silicosis.” Youngblood sued his former employer and a number of silicon manufacturers for his injuries. Three of those defendants, U.S. Silica Co., The Feldspar Corp., and Unimin Corp. (collectively “U.S. Silica”), successfully moved for summary judgment in the trial court, from which Youngblood now appeals. HOLDING: Reversed and remanded. The medical reports included differential diagnoses of silicosis and tuberculosis (or various other diseases) as early as 1992. The 1992-1996 medical records, however, do not affirmatively indicate Youngblood was ever made aware of these differential diagnoses. For example, Youngblood reported shortness of breath beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with subsequent onset of prolonged coughing in the 1990s. One doctor told Youngblood his condition was probably the result of smoking cigarettes. Youngblood received news of abnormal x-rays in 1992 from Allan Goldstein (a company physician) and from Gail Stockman (Youngblood’s personal physician). According to Youngblood, however, Stockman found no evidence of silicotic material, silicosis, or tuberculosis. It was not until he met with Peter Petroff Dec. 5, 1997, that anyone told Youngblood he had silicosis. From 1992 until 1997, the doctors hired by Kilgore Ceramics made repeated suggestions, in writing, that Youngblood visit his personal physician regarding the abnormal x-rays. The medical records admitted into evidence show Youngblood usually visited a doctor within two or three months of receiving those letters. Youngblood’s pattern of visiting his personal physician soon after receiving letters from company physicians shows Youngblood was exercising due diligence in trying to find the cause of his abnormal x-rays. Yet despite these timely doctor visits, Youngblood consistently stated no one could explain the cause of the breathing difficulties. According to Youngblood, no doctor formally diagnosed him with silicosis until December 1997. There was no evidence that a 1995 unsigned recommendation from Erwin to Surya Lanka, was either conveyed to Youngblood or acted on by Lanka. Thus, assuming Youngblood’s testimony is believable, this is not a case where the plaintiff failed to exercise due diligence or otherwise had sufficient information that he should have concluded his shortness of breath was related to inhalation of silicon dust. The chief contradictory evidence comes from Stockman’s 2002 affidavit (made 10 years after she met with Youngblood) and anecdotal evidence suggesting Youngblood could have concluded his respiratory difficulties were related to breathing silicon dust for more than forty years during his employment at Kilgore Ceramics (especially when the plant ordered periodic chest x-rays and made employees wear protective masks). But viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Youngblood, there is more than a scintilla of evidence suggesting Youngblood neither discovered his disease, nor could have assumed his illness was work related, until so informed Dec. 5, 1997. The court finds the trial court erred by granting a no-evidence summary judgment in this case. This holding is consistent with the Texas Supreme Court’s expressed policy of not requiring plaintiffs to file suit “based only upon their suspicions about causal connections.” Childs v. Haussecker, 974 S.W.2d 31 (Tex. 1998). This decision is consistent with the Texas Supreme Court’s proclamation that the commencement of the statute of limitations cannot be determined as a matter of law if reasonable minds could differ about the conclusion to be drawn from the facts in the record. Finally, U.S. Silica dedicated a significant portion of its brief to challenging the affidavits Youngblood submitted as evidence in response to U.S. Silica’s motion for summary judgment. The trial court initially, and partially, granted U.S. Silica’s objections to these affidavits. The trial court, however, later vacated this order. U.S. Silica did not appeal the trial court’s decision to vacate its earlier order and has, therefore, failed to properly present this issue for appellate review. OPINION: Ross, J.; Morriss, C.J., Ross and Carter, JJ.

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