RESPONDENT: Thurston Hensley
LOCATION: Railroad Shops
DOCKET NO.: 08-1034
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: Tennessee Supreme Court
CITATION: 556 US (2009)
GRANTED: Jun 01, 2009
DECIDED: Jun 01, 2009
Facts of the case
Thurston Hensley sued his longtime employer CSX Transportation Inc. (CSX) under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA)in a Tennessee state court alleging that the railroad had negligently caused him to contract asbestosis. He sought pain and suffering damages for, among other things, his fear of developing lung cancer. Despite the objections of CSX, the trial court refused to provide a jury instruction as to the standard for awarding "fear of cancer" damages. Subsequently, the jury awarded Mr. Hensley $5 million in damages. On appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, CSX argued that the trial court misapplied the Supreme Court's decision in Norfolk & Western R. Co. v. Ayers where the Court established a standard for finding "fear of cancer" damages. The court of appeals rejected the argument and affirmed the trial court. In its petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court, CSX argued that the Tennessee Court of Appeals misapplied the Court's decision in Ayers and that the jury should have been instructed that Mr. Hensley needed to prove that his fear of cancer was "genuine and serious" in order to collect damages.
Did the Tennessee Court of Appeals misread and misapply the Supreme Court's decision in Ayers such that a jury instruction should have been provided as to the standard for finding "fear of cancer" damages when CSX requested it?