The plaintiff must present material evidence as to each of the five elements of general negligence -- duty, breach of duty, injury or loss, causation in fact, and proximate, or legal, cause -- in order to avoid summary judgment.
Plaintiff driver filed an action against defendants, the estate administrator and the owner of the other vehicle, for negligent infliction of emotional distress caused when he viewed the deceased victim's body after their automobiles collided. The estate administrator and the owner of the other vehicle filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court denied. The trial court found that damages for emotional injuries were potentially recoverable even though the driver did not suffer any physical injury. The lower court disagreed, holding that the driver failed to provide evidence that viewing the deceased victim's body caused him to be in fear for his own safety, which was one of the requirements in recovery for mental distress. The Court of Appeals (Tennessee) reversed, and the driver appealed.
Has the Supreme Court of Tennessee abandoned the "physical manifestation" or "injury" rule in favor of a general negligence standard in determining whether a plaintiff has standing to pursue a negligent infliction of emotional distress action?
On appeal, the court abandoned the "injury" rule and held that the action was to be analyzed under a general negligence approach. The court also held that summary judgment was improper and that the family purpose doctrine applied to the action. Under the family purpose doctrine, the owner of the other vehicle was potentially liable for the driver's emotional injuries caused by the deceased victim's alleged negligence because the owner of the other vehicle gave consent to the deceased victim to use her automobile. The judgment of the lower court was reversed and remanded with instructions for the lower court to use the family purpose doctrine in determining the mother's potential liability for her daughter's negligence in operating the mother's vehicle.