Law School Case Brief
Niederman v. Brodsky - 436 Pa. 401, 261 A.2d 84 (1970)
The court abandons the requirement of a physical impact as a precondition to recovery for damages proximately caused by the tort where a plaintiff was in personal danger of physical impact because of the direction of a negligent force against him and where plaintiff actually did fear the physical impact.
Plaintiff Harry Niederman and his son were on a sidewalk when defendant Gerald Brodsky’s car mounted the sidewalk, struck down numerous objects, and then struck Niederman's son. Almost immediately after this, Niederman began a five-week hospitalization where he was diagnosed with acute coronary insufficiency, coronary failure, angina pectoris, and possible myocardial infarction. He filed a complaint in Pennsylvania state court seeking damages from Brodsky. The trial court dismissed the complaint it on Brodsky's preliminary objections for failing to state a cause of action under the impact rule. Niederman appealed.
Did Niederman's failure to state a cause of action under the impact rule warrant a dismissal of his complaint against Brodsky?
The state supreme court reversed the dismissal and abandoned the long-standing impact rule. The court reviewed the history of the impact rule and concluded that the underpinnings of the impact doctrine were weak enough to justify its abandonment. Moreover, the court determined that modern medical advances would enable claimants to prove a causal connection and that other states that had abandoned the rule had not experienced a great increase in litigation. These considerations would not bar an action by a claimant, such as Niederman, who alleged serious injuries resulting from the fright of a negligent force aimed at him.
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