Falzone v. Busch

45 N.J. 559, 214 A.2d 12 (1965)



Where negligence causes fright from a reasonable fear of immediate personal injury, which fright is adequately demonstrated to have resulted in substantial bodily injury or sickness, the injured person may recover if such bodily injury or sickness would be regarded as proper elements of damage had they occurred as a consequence of direct physical injury rather than fright. Of course, where fright does not cause substantial bodily injury or sickness, it is to be regarded as too lacking in seriousness and too speculative to warrant the imposition of liability. 


Defendant motorist's car struck plaintiff husband, who was standing in a field near plaintiff wife as she sat in plaintiffs' car. Plaintiff then sued for negligent infliction of emotional distress, but the lower court dismissed this, holding that without physical impact, there could be no claim. Thus, the plaintiff appealed.


Can fright, without physical impact, result in a claim?




The court held that a plaintiff could ask for redress from bodily injury or sickness resulting from fear for her safety, caused by a negligent defendant where there was danger by such negligence, although there was no physical impact. It stated that physical injury could be caused by fright and that the absence of suits of this nature did not justify a rule of no liability. It held that neither the difficulty in proving the cause nor the possibility of simulated injuries justified barring recovery, thus having opined that proof of the same was material in impact cases and that evidentiary requirements would are for the purpose of avoiding fraudulent claims.

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