Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
In Florida, the prerequisites for recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress differ depending on whether the plaintiff has or has not suffered a physical impact from an external force. If the plaintiff has suffered an impact, Florida courts permit recovery for emotional distress stemming from the incident during which the impact occurred, and not merely the impact itself. If, however, the plaintiff has not suffered an impact, the complained-of mental distress must be manifested by physical injury, the plaintiff must be involved in the incident by seeing, hearing, or arriving on the scene as the traumatizing event occurs, and the plaintiff must suffer the complained-of mental distress and accompanying physical impairment within a short time of the incident. The impact rule is the rule of law followed in Florida applicable to cases in which the plaintiff claims mental or emotional damages but has not sustained any physical impact or contact, unless the claim falls within one of the recognized exceptions to the rule. When an impact or touching has occurred the rule has no application.
Mrs. Willis was a guest at a Holiday Inn hotel owned by Gami which had contracted for security services with American Security. When Mrs. Willis arrived at the Holiday Inn for her stay, there were no parking spaces available in the hotel parking lot immediately adjacent to the hotel structure. A security guard specifically instructed her to park her vehicle in a parking lot across the street, and when Mrs. Willis expressed concern because the lot was dark and the neighborhood unfamiliar, the guard assured her that it was "safe to park next door" and instructed that she park there. Mrs. Willis proceeded to park her vehicle across the street in the location directed by the guard and opened the car door, a gun was placed to her head as she began to exit the vehicle. The assailant then demanded that Mrs. Willis lift her clothing and as she did so, he proceeded to place his hands on her, patting down her exposed body. After the gunman had stolen her rental car and driven off, the security guard refused to provide assistance to Mrs. Willis. The guard attempted to act as though he had never seen her. Mrs. Willis found no greater help from the hotel personnel inside the facility. Mrs. Willis experienced a sleepless night in the Holiday Inn hotel room she shared with her friend, walking the floor in "agony" and "scared." Mrs. Willis was seen in a local emergency room. Since that time, she has been under the care and treatment of a psychiatrist and a psychologist, as well as her general practitioner, for anxiety, depression, panic attacks and posttraumatic stress disorder. The defendants simply assert that the "impact rule" precludes this action. The instant action came for review after the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed a final summary judgment in favor of the defendants/respondents, Gami Golden Glades, LLC (hereinafter "Gami") and American Knights Security, Inc. (hereinafter "American Security"). In affirming the summary judgment, the district court held that Florida's impact rule precluded plaintiffs/petitioners (hereinafter "the Willises") from recovering for severe psychological damage allegedly suffered by Marjorie Willis (hereinafter "Mrs. Willis") as a result of the negligence of the defendants/respondents in failing to exercise reasonable care to protect her from foreseeable criminal action.
Was touching against Mrs. Willis’ will, by means of a pistol pointed to her head, and in "patting down" her body, sufficient to satisfy Florida's impact rule?
The court agreed with the assertion that the facts involved with the underlying incident which Mrs. Willis was subject to establish that she sustained multiple types of contact sufficient to qualify as an impact giving rise to a valid cause of action for emotional distress. The assailant actually made contact with her left temple with his gun, and made physical contact with her when he demanded that she lift her shirt, and then proceeded to touch her body in an apparent search for money or other belongings.