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La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2315.6 provides that: A. The following persons who view an event causing injury to another person, or who come upon the scene of the event soon thereafter, may recover damages for mental anguish or emotional distress that they suffer as a result of the other person's injury: (1) The spouse, child, or children, and grandchild or grandchildren of the injured person, or either the spouse, the child or children, or the grandchild or grandchildren of the injured person. (2) The father and mother of the injured person, or either of them. (3) The brothers and sisters of the injured person or any of them. (4) The grandfather and grandmother of the injured person, or either of them. B. To recover for mental anguish or emotional distress under this Article, the injured person must suffer such harm that one can reasonably expect a person in the claimant's position to suffer serious mental anguish or emotional distress from the experience, and the claimant's mental anguish or emotional distress must be severe, debilitating, and foreseeable. Damages suffered as a result of mental anguish or emotional distress for injury to another shall be recovered only in accordance with art. 2315.6.
On November 22, 1991, plaintiffs, Donnie and Shirley Norred and Arlen and Linda Guidry, were guests at the Radisson Hotel occupying adjacent rooms. While the men watched television in the Guidrys' room, the ladies went next door to the Norreds' room to retrieve drinks from an ice chest. A handbag was placed between the door and the door frame of the Guidrys' room so that the ladies could reenter the room without the use of a key. While the ladies were absent from the Guidrys' room, a man armed with a gun entered the room through the open door, threatened the two men, tied them up, taped their legs and mouths, and robbed them. When the ladies attempted to return to the Guidrys' room, they discovered that the door was locked. Unaware of the presence of the assailant and believing that the men were playing a trick on them, Mrs. Guidry attempted to climb from the balcony of the Norreds' room to the balcony of the Guidrys' room, but was unsuccessful. In the meantime, Mrs. Norred knocked on the door of the Guidrys' room, and the robber suddenly opened the door, pulled Mrs. Norred into the room, and threw her across the room. The robber then left the room. Mrs. Guidry began knocking on the door to the Guidrys' room, and, from inside, Mrs. Norred instructed her to alert hotel security that they had been robbed. Mrs. Guidry went next door to the Norreds' room to call hotel security and remained there until security personnel arrived approximately fifteen minutes later. The police arrived shortly thereafter. Mrs. Guidry then went to the Guidrys' room, where the robbery had occurred, and saw her husband in a shaken-up state. Mr. Guidry was no longer bound with tape when Mrs. Guidry entered the room. On October 20, 1992, plaintiffs filed the instant action for damages, naming as defendants the Radisson Hotel Corporation and Radisson Hotels International, Incorporated (collectively referred to as the defendants hereafter). The petition alleged that the defendants were liable to the plaintiffs for damages arising from their failure to provide adequate security measures.
Did the wife's evidence satisfy the requirements for negligent infliction of emotional distress or for an award of damages for mental anguish under La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2315.6?
The court held that, after reviewing the record and the criteria required to prove entitlement to damages under art. 2315.6, so-called bystander recovery, the wife was not entitled to damages for mental anguish. She was not present during the robbery and was not even aware that a robbery had taken place until it was over. When she came upon the scene shortly after the robbery occurred, she merely observed that hair had been removed from her husband's hands by tape used to tie him up. Her subsequent visit with a psychologist was primarily for her husband's benefit in that she wished to help him overcome his problems. She testified that she did not have dreams about the incident, but the incident caused her to be more cautious. The court held that her mental anguish was not severe and debilitating as required by art. 2315.6 and the jurisprudence. Further, the court held that the wife failed to prove that, as a result of the robbery, she suffered from genuine and serious emotional distress. Therefore, she was not entitled to damages for the negligent infliction of emotional distress.