A person's psychic well-being is as much entitled to legal protection as is his physical well-being. The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine recognizes as much and provides compensation when the emotional distress is intentionally or recklessly inflicted, when the emotional distress results from physical injury negligently inflicted, or when negligently inflicted emotional distress results in physical injury.
After discovering an amputated limb in a bag purported to contain his deceased father's personal effects, the victim suffered mental shock, nightmares, and emotional symptoms. He filed a complaint against the hospital and the funeral home asserting liability for negligent infliction of severe emotional distress under count I and seeking to recover damages therefore. Following a jury trial, the superior court rendered a directed verdict for the hospital and the funeral home on that count. The victim contested that judgment, which the court vacated and remanded the matter to proceed according to the opinion.
Can a plaintiff recover for emotional distress that was a reasonably foreseeable result of the defendant’s negligence?
The court recognized the elimination of some barriers to recovery for negligent infliction of severe emotional distress may compel further evaluation of other policy considerations. For example, the result in Packard is supported on the ground stated by the trial court: "By allowing recovery . . . merely on the ground of negligence, the 'qualified privilege' given to communications to law enforcement officials is diluted.” On the facts and circumstances of the case before, however, the court found no sound basis to preclude potential compensation to Gammon. Therefore, the trial court erred in directing a verdict on Gammon's claim for negligent infliction of severe emotional distress.