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Corso v. Merrill - 119 N.H. 647, 406 A.2d 300 (1979)

Rule:

It is reasonably foreseeable that, if one negligently operates a motor vehicle so as to injure a person, there will be one or more persons sufficiently attached emotionally to the injured person that he or they will be affected. The emotional harm, however, cannot be insignificant. Recovery is not to be permitted for mere upset, dismay, humiliation, grief and anger. The emotional harm must be a painful mental experience with lasting effects.

Facts:

Plaintiff parents filed an action for negligent infliction of emotional distress against the estate of defendant driver. The mother heard the sound of an accident and immediately observed her daughter lying injured. The father contemporaneously observed the consequences of the driver's alleged negligent act in hitting the child with his car. The child became permanently crippled. The trial court dismissed their complaint. Plaintiffs filed an interlocutory appeal.

Issue:

Can plaintiff parents recover damages for emotional injury arising from the accident of their child?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court overruled its past cases regarding recovery for parental bystanders, sustained the exceptions of the parents of the accident victim, and remanded the case. The court considered plaintiffs proximity to the scene of the accident, the manner in which they became aware of the injury, and the relationship of plaintiffs to the victim. The court held that the parents could recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress upon a showing that they had witnessed or contemporaneously perceived a serious injury to their child and that they had suffered serious mental or emotional harm accompanied by objective physical symptoms.

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