The impact requirement of the common law does not have a continuing effect in Michigan. Where a definite and objective physical injury is produced as a result of emotional distress proximately caused by defendant's negligent conduct, a plaintiff in a properly pleaded and proved action may recover in damages for such physical consequences to himself notwithstanding the absence of any physical impact upon plaintiff at the time of the mental shock.
Defendant was traveling west on 15 Mile Road near plaintiffs' farm. Defendant's vehicle left the highway, traveled 63 feet in the air and 209 feet beyond the edge of the road and, in the process, sheared off a utility pole. A number of high voltage lines snapped, striking the electrical lines leading into plaintiffs' house and caused a great electrical explosion resulting in considerable property damage. The homeowners alleged emotional injuries as result of the power lines crashing into their house. The lower court affirmed the directed verdict for the driver on the basis that Michigan law denied recovery for negligently caused emotional injury without a showing of physical impact.
Does the "impact" rule in emotional distress have any continued vitality in the Michigan civil jurisprudence?
In reversing the directed verdict, the court held that physical impact no longer needed to be shown by plaintiffs in order to recover for physical injuries produced as a result of emotional distress due to the negligence of another. The homeowners had to show that physical harm was the natural result of emotional injury negligently caused by the driver.
Based upon close scrutiny of precedential cases and the authority upon which they rested and cognizant of the changed circumstances relating to the factual and scientific information available, the court concluded that the "impact" requirement of the common law should not have a continuing effect in Michigan and it therefore overruled the principle to the contrary contained in previous cases.