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Norfolk & Western Railway Co. v. Ayers

United States Supreme Court
538 U.S. 135 (2003)


Ayers and five other former employees (plaintiffs) of Norfolk & Western Railway Company (Norfolk) (defendants) contracted asbestosis at least in part from their exposure to asbestos while working at Norfolk. The plaintiffs brought suit against Norfolk under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. §§ 51–60, seeking to recover damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress based on the plaintiffs’ fear of developing cancer related to asbestosis. The plaintiffs presented evidence that asbestosis was strongly linked to cancer. The jury found in favor of the plaintiffs. Norfolk appealed, arguing that the plaintiffs could not recover damages for emotional distress based on the fear of developing cancer. Norfolk further argued that, even if the plaintiffs could recover on the fear-based theory, damages should be apportioned among other potential defendants as well as against Norfolk. The Court of Appeals of West Virginia declined to review the judgment. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari on the issue of whether a plaintiff with actionable asbestosis may recover damages for emotional distress based on the fear of developing cancer.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Ginsburg, J.)

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