Graves v. Estabrook

149 N.H. 202, 818 A.2d 1255 (2003)

 

RULE:

In New Hampshire, the determination of whether recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) is dependent upon the traditional foreseeability test, not a bright-line rule based upon a relationship by blood or marriage to a decedent.

FACTS:

A woman, who had lived with a man for seven years and was engaged to be married to him, was driving directly behind her fiance and observed the driver collide with the fiance's motorcycle. The fiancee stopped her car and rushed to her fiance's aid, observing blood and severe head trauma. The fiance died the next day and the fiancee instituted an action against the driver, alleging Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED). The trial court dismissed the action, finding that the fiancee could not recover for NIED because she was not related by blood or marriage to the decedent. The fiancee appealed. 

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ISSUE:

Can a person who has lived with and was engaged to marry a decedent recover damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) as a result of witnessing a collision that results in the decedent's death?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The appellate court reversed and remanded, holding that the fiancee could recover for NIED as a result of witnessing the collision. New Hampshire followed the traditional foreseeability test in lieu of a bright-line rule in the context of determining whether recovery for NIED was permissible, citing the bright-line rule as both under and over-inclusive. In applying the traditional foreseeability analysis, it was reasonable to infer that in the course of their lengthy cohabitation, the fiancee and her fiance enjoyed mutual dependence, common contributions to a life together, emotional reliance on each other, and attended to life's mundane requirements together.

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