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Gracey v. Eaker

Supreme Court of Florida

December 19, 2002, Decided

No. SC00-153

Opinion

 [*350]  LEWIS, J.

We have for review Gracey v. Eaker, 747 So. 2d 475 (Fla. 5th DCA 1999), in which the district court affirmed the dismissal of an action initiated by the petitioners, Donna and Joseph Gracey ("Graceys"), a couple allegedly injured by the counseling activities of a psychotherapist, against Dr. Donald W. Eaker ("Eaker"). The Graceys sought the recovery of emotional distress damages that were allegedly inflicted by Eaker's actions in revealing the most confidential of information disclosed to him by each individual during and only as part [**2]  of a confidential and fiduciary relationship. In affirming the dismissal of the Graceys' action, the district court held that their complaint sounded in negligence and failed to adhere to the "requirement [of the impact rule] that some physical impact to a claimant … be alleged and demonstrated before the claimant can recover [emotional distress] damages." Id. at 477.

In addition to affirming the dismissal of the petitioners' action, the district court certified a question of great public importance:

WHETHER AN EXCEPTION TO FLORIDA'S IMPACT RULE SHOULD BE RECOGNIZED IN A CASE WHERE INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL INJURIES RESULTED FROM THE BREACH OF A STATUTORY DUTY OF CONFIDENTIALITY.

Id. at 478. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const. We are concerned that the certified question as phrased by the district court may be more expansive than necessary to resolve this case under the facts before us. Therefore, we rephrase the certified question limited to the facts involved here as follows: 1

WHETHER FLORIDA'S IMPACT RULE IS APPLICABLE IN A CASE IN WHICH IT IS ALLEGED THAT THE INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL INJURIES HAS RESULTED FROM A PSYCHOTHERAPIST'S BREACH OF A DUTY OF CONFIDENTIALITY TO HIS PATIENT, WHEN THE PSYCHOTHERAPIST HAS CREATED A  [*351]  STATUTORY CONFIDENTIAL RELATIONSHIP.

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837 So. 2d 348 *; 2002 Fla. LEXIS 2662 **; 27 Fla. L. Weekly S 1052

DONNA GRACEY and JOSEPH GRACEY, Petitioners, vs. DONALD W. EAKER, Respondent.

Prior History:  [**1]  Application for Review of the Decision of the District Court of Appeal - Certified Great Public Importance Fifth District - Case No. 5D99-1075. (Orange County).

 Gracey v. Eaker, 747 So. 2d 475, 1999 Fla. App. LEXIS 17606 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist. 1999).

Disposition: Certified question answered, quashed in part, and case remanded.

CORE TERMS

emotional distress, emotional distress damages, patient, confidential, fiduciary relationship, damages, physical injury, psychotherapist, emotional, confidence, cause of action, district court, psychiatrist, duty of confidentiality, fiduciary duty, disclosure, wrongful birth, breach of fiduciary duty, emotional injury, petitioners', breached, disclose, public policy, instant case, manifestation, discernible, distress, survival, psychic, courts

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, Certified Questions, Healthcare Law, Medical Treatment, Patient Confidentiality, General Overview, Standards of Review, Governments, Fiduciaries, Breach, Responses, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Torts, Intentional Torts, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, Fiduciary Responsibilities, Malpractice & Professional Liability, Elements, Duty, Types of Negligence Actions, Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Healthcare Providers, Professional Services, Elements, Failures to Disclose & Warn, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Healthcare Litigation, Actions Against Healthcare Workers, Doctors & Physicians, Pain & Suffering, Emotional Distress, Types of Losses