In the early afternoon of a humid, 97 degree summer day, James Gottshall was part of a crew of mostly 50- to 60-year-old men replacing track for Conrail. Michael Norvick, the crew supervisor, pressed the men to finish the work. He discouraged observance of the scheduled breaks. Richard Johns collapsed in the heat; Norvick ordered the men back to work as soon as a cold compress had revived him. Five minutes later Johns collapsed again, the victim of a heart attack. Gottshall began 40 minutes of ultimately fruitless cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Johns, his friend for 15 years. Norvick was unable to radio for assistance because Conrail was repairing that part of its communications system; by the time he could drive for help, Johns was dead. Norvick made the men work in sight of his body, which lay covered with a sheet to await the coroner. The next day, Gottshall alleged, Norvick reprimanded Gottshall for his efforts to revive Johns, and – in the same heat and humidity – pushed the crew even harder, with three or four hours of overtime. Within a few days Gottshall was hospitalized, suffering major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder; he continued to need treatment after his release three weeks later. He sued Conrail under the Federal Employers' Liability Act of 1908, asserting that his condition was caused by its negligent infliction of emotional distress – both through Norvick's actions, and through Conrail's failure to maintain operative communications links with the work party.
Peter L. Strauss,
On Resegregating the Worlds of Statute and Common Law,
Sup. Ct. Rev.
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