Silicosis case in Miss. proceeds despite death

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — A lawsuit filed by a man who alleged he contracted a lung disease while working for a Jackson company will proceed despite his death weeks before the case was scheduled for trial in Hinds County Circuit Court.

The Clarion-Ledger reports the suit filed by Howard Barnett will now be a wrongful death claim.

The trial is set for April 4. A lawyer for Barnett told Circuit Judge Winston Kidd last week that he planned to amend Barnett’s lawsuit. Barnett, a 76-year-old from Magee who had silicosis, died Feb. 10, records show.

Barnett was exposed to silica while working at Mississippi Steel & Iron in Jackson from 1957 through 1988, according to his lawsuit.

Silica is found in most rock beds and forms dust during mining, quarrying, tunneling and work with many metal ores. It is a main component of sand, so glass workers and sand-blasters also receive heavy exposure to it. Inhaling the dust has been linked to lung disease including cancer.

Southern Silica of Louisiana Inc. and other companies being sued on behalf of Barnett want the lawsuit dismissed because they said it was filed after the statute of limitations had expired.

A ruling is pending from Kidd on Southern Silica’s motion to dismiss.

Jennifer Skipper, an attorney for Southern Silica, argued before Kidd and in court papers that Barnett’s lawsuit should be dismissed because he filed it more than the maximum three years after learning he had the lung disease.

“In 2005, he had a lung injury,” Skipper said. “The statute of limitation runs from the date the plaintiff learned he has a condition.”

Barnett’s lawsuit was filed last year. But R. Allen Smith, an attorney for Barnett, said Barnett’s diagnosis of silicosis was made in 2007.

“Mr. Barnett was never told he had silicosis until 2007 even if it was suspected,” Smith said. “His statute of limitation didn’t begin to run until 2007.”

In addition to the motion to dismiss, defense attorneys also asked that they receive any preserved lung tissue from Barnett if it existed. But Smith said there is not any.