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It is basic to tort law that an injury is an element to be proven. Given the advanced state of medical science, it is unwise and unnecessary to permit recovery to be predicated on an inference based on a defendant's outrageousness without expert medical confirmation that the plaintiff actually suffered the claimed distress. Moreover, the requirement of some objective proof of severe emotional distress will not present an insurmountable obstacle to recovery. Therefore, if the tort of intentional infliction of severe emotional distress is to be accepted in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, at the very least, existence of the alleged emotional distress must be supported by competent medical evidence.
Appellants Harvey and Marsha Kazatsky, husband and wife, sought to recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress caused by the cemetery company's failure to care for the gravesites of appellants' deceased infants and by the company's demands for payments in addition to the purchase price of the plots. The lower court granted the company's motion for compulsory nonsuit. Appellants challenged the decision.
Under the circumstances, could the appellants recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress?
On appeal, the court upheld the judgment of the lower court. The court determined that to recover damages for severe emotional distress caused by the intentional or reckless extreme and outrageous conduct of another, the existence of the alleged emotional distress had to be supported by competent medical evidence at the very least. The court found that the evidence adduced did not establish a right of recovery because appellants presented no expert testimony and never sought any medical assistance. The court also found that the only evidence presented concerning the alleged injuries was appellants' own unsubstantiated averments.