Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The allegations concerning a parent who sustains substantial physical harm as a result of severe mental distress over some peril or harm to his minor child caused by the defendant's negligence state a claim for which relief might be granted, where the parent either witnesses the accident or soon comes on the scene while the child is still there.
On October 24, 1973, Norma Dziokonski, a minor, alighted from a motor vehicle, used as a school bus, on Route 117 in Lancaster. That motor vehicle was owned by the defendant Pelletier and operated by the defendant Kroll. A motor vehicle owned and operated by the defendant Babineau struck Norma as she was crossing the road. The complaint filed by the administratrix of the estate of Lorraine Dziokonski (Mrs. Dziokonski) alleged that Mrs. Dziokonski was the mother of Norma and that she "lived in the immediate vicinity of the accident, went to the scene of the accident and witnessed her daughter lying injured on the ground." Mrs. Dziokonski "suffered physical and emotional shock, distress and anguish as a result of the injury to her daughter and died while she was a passenger in the ambulance that was driving her daughter to the hospital." The complaint filed by the administratrix of the estate of Anthony Dziokonski (Mr. Dziokonski) alleged the facts previously set forth and added that he was the father of Norma and the husband of Mrs. Dziokonski. Mr. Dziokonski "suffered an aggravated gastric ulcer, a coronary occlusion, physical and emotional shock, distress and anguish as a result of the injury to his daughter and the death of his wife and his death was caused thereby." The complaints alleged wrongful death and conscious suffering after both parents died after suffering shock and distress due to the minor's injuries. The actions were consolidated and recovery was denied.
Can the estates of the Dziokonskis recover from defendants despite them not being directly the victims of the tort in question?
The fact that the causal connection between a parent's emotional response to peril to his child and the parent's resulting physical injuries is difficult to prove or disprove cannot justify denying all recovery. No one asserts, and we have never claimed, that physical reactions to emotional responses do not occur. The court has recognized liability for exclusively emotional reactions to tortious conduct in particular circumstances, and, in other instances, recognized liability for bodily harm resulting from emotional distress. The court has also upheld claims of the character involved here, as so called "parasitic" claims, where they are accompanied by a traditional form of tortious injury. Indeed, certain elements of pain and suffering, recoverable in almost all personal injury actions, may be as tenuous causally as the harm for which recovery is sought in these cases. The facts of cases of this character involve tortious injury to the child and substantial physical consequences to the parent. The tortfeasor is not confronted with the results of a fleeting instance of fear or excitement of which he might be unaware and against which he would be unable to present a defense. The fact that some claims might be manufactured or improperly expanded cannot justify the wholesale rejection of all claims.