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Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company v. Buckley

United States Supreme Court
521 U.S. 424 (1997)


Facts

Buckley (plaintiff) is an employee of Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company (Metro-North) (defendant). For several years, Buckley’s job for Metro-North exposed him to asbestos. Since learning of the exposure, Buckley has been afraid he will develop cancer, and has received periodic checks for cancer and asbestosis, though he has not been diagnosed with either. Buckley brought suit under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Metro-North agreed it was negligent, but argued that Buckley had not suffered emotional distress, and that FELA did not permit recovery for a plaintiff who has not suffered physical harm. At trial, experts testified that Buckley’s exposure to asbestos increased his risk of developing cancer or asbestos-related diseases by between one and five percent, in addition to the risk created by his former 15-year smoking habit. The district court dismissed Buckley’s claim, finding that he had not presented evidence of an actual emotional injury, and that he had not suffered a physical impact as required under the FELA. The Second Circuit reversed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Breyer, J.)

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Concurrence (Ginsburg, J.)

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