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The "impact rule" requires some physical impact prior to the recovery of damages for emotional distress.
Petitioner filed a complaint against his veterinarian, seeking damages for veterinary malpractice in the treatment of his basset hound. In his complaint, petitioner alleged negligence, emotional distress, and alleged fraud. The veterinarian filed a motion for partial summary judgment, which was granted with respect to petitioner’s claim for emotional distress damages, finding that, even if all allegations were proven, the petitioner could not recover for emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, or mental anguish. After discovery, the veterinarian filed a motion to transfer venue from circuit court to county court, asserting that discovery had revealed that without the claim of damages for emotional distress the only damages remaining in litigation were $ 350 alleged as the value of the basset hound and $ 50 for the amount of the bill over which an allegation of fraud had been raised. The circuit court entered an order granting the veterinarian’s motion transfer because the jurisdictional limits of the circuit court had not been satisfied. The petitioner filed a petition for a writ of certiorari seeking an order to quash the motion to transfer.
Under the circumstances, could the petitioner recover damages for emotional distress?
The appellate court held that the petitioner failed to demonstrate a departure from the essential requirements of law because the "impact rule," which required some physical impact prior to the recovery of damages for emotional distress, precluded recovery. The appellate court declined to extend the exception to the impact rule for malpractice relating to family members because, under Florida law, animals were considered to be personal property.