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A cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress is stated when the following criteria are met: (1) Whether plaintiff was located near the scene of the accident as contrasted with one who was a distance away from it; (2) Whether the shock resulted from a direct emotional impact upon plaintiff from the sensory and contemporaneous observance of the accident, as contrasted with learning of the accident from others after its occurrence; (3) Whether plaintiff and the victim were closely related as contrasted with an absence of any relationship or the presence of only a distant relationship.
Jane Mazzagatti filed a claim against Ricky Allen Everingham, alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress when Everingham’s automobile fatally injured Mazzagatti’s daughter. Immediately following the accident, Mazzagatti was called to the scene and observed her daughter lying in the street. Everingham filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that Mazzagatti had not actually witnessed the fatal accident, thus she failed to state a cause of action. The motion was granted.
Was the grant of summary judgment to Everingham in an action for intentional infliction of emotional distress filed by Mazzagatti after Everingham’s automobile struck Mazzagatti’s daughter and caused the child's death proper?
The court held that the duty of care arose only where a reasonable person would recognize the existence of an unreasonable risk of harm to others through such negligence. Thus, the element for establishing liability would be the observance of the injury by the relative. The court held that where Mazzagatti was not present at the scene of the accident, but instead learned of the accident from another, Mazzagatti’s prior knowledge of the injury would serve as a buffer against the full impact of observing the accident. As such, the court concluded that there was no justification for the claim.