Norfolk & Western Ry. v. Ayers

538 U.S. 135

 

RULE:

Under the FELA, workers who suffer from a disease may recover for negligently caused emotional distress. However, in order to recover, they must prove that they are actually suffering from a disease.

FACTS:

Plaintiffs were employed by defendant, and contracted asbestosis partially from their exposure to asbestos while working for defendant. Plaintiffs sued defendant under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, and wanted to recover for defendant's negligent infliction of emotional distress based on plaintiffs' fear of developing cancer related to asbestosis. Jury found in favor of plaintiffs, and the defendant appealed. Defendant argued that the plaintiffs could not recover damages for emotional distress based on fear of developing cancer. Defendant argued that, even if plaintiffs could recover on their theory, damages should be apportioned amongst potential defendants. The appellate court declined to review the judgment, and the Supreme Court granted cert.

ISSUE:

May employees' mental anguish resulting from the fear of developing cancer was recoverable under the Federal Employers' Liability Act.

ANSWER:

Yes, employees' mental anguish resulting from the fear of developing cancer was recoverable under the Federal Employers' Liability Act.

CONCLUSION:

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts' rulings. It held that mental anguish damages resulting from the fear of developing cancer were recoverable under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, by the employees' suffering from asbestosis caused by work-related exposure to asbestos. The employee had to prove, however, that his alleged fear was genuine and serious.

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