Catron v. Lewis

271 Neb. 416, 712 N.W.2d 245 (2006)



In Nebraska, where there is no impact or physical injury to the plaintiff, the plaintiff seeking to bring an action for negligent infliction of emotional distress must show either (1) that he or she is a reasonably foreseeable "bystander" victim based upon an intimate familial relationship with a seriously injured victim of the defendant's negligence or (2) that the plaintiff was a "direct victim" of the defendant's negligence because the plaintiff was within the zone of danger of the negligence in question. In addition, such plaintiffs whose only injury is an emotional one must show that their emotional distress is medically diagnosable and significant and is so severe that no reasonable person could have expected to endure it. 


The motorboat operator brought an action against defendants seeking damages for emotional distress stemming from his witnessing an accident that killed one of his daughter's friends after that friend was struck by the jet ski operator. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants and the court affirmed on appeal. 


Did the district court err in sustaining the defendants' motions for summary judgment and in ruling that there was no negligent infliction of emotional distress?




The evidence was undisputed that the motorboat operator suffered no physical impact or injury from the accident that he attributed to the negligence of defendants. Furthermore, he made no argument that he had an intimate familial relationship with the victim. Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the motorboat operator, he was clearly not within the zone of danger. He was not a bystander or a direct victim of the alleged acts that resulted in the victim's death.

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