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Law School Case Brief

Heiner v. Moretuzzo (1995) - 1995-Ohio-65, 73 Ohio St. 3d 80, 652 N.E.2d 664

Rule:

A cause of action may be stated for the negligent infliction of serious emotional distress without the manifestation of a resulting physical injury. Proof of a resulting physical injury is admissible as evidence of the degree of emotional distress suffered.

Facts:

Plaintiff patient filed suit against defendants, a physician, medical center, and blood testing facility, alleging that she had been negligently diagnosed as positive for human immunodefciency virus (HIV) and based her action on the negligent infliction of emotional distress. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the medical parties, and the appellate court affirmed. Plaintiff sought review.

Issue:

Is plaintiff entitled to recover damages for emotional distress based on the erroneous medical diagnosis of defendants?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court held that Ohio did not recognize a claim for the negligent infliction of serious emotional distress where the distress had been caused by the plaintiff's fear of a nonexistent physical peril. Also, the court declined to create a subspecies of the tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress that applied only in the context of the patient-physician relationship.

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