Thing v. La Chusa

48 Cal. 3d 644, 257 Cal. Rptr. 865, 771 P.2d 814 (1989)

 

RULE:

In the absence of physical injury or impact to the plaintiff himself, damages for emotional distress should be recoverable only if the plaintiff: (1) is closely related to the injury victim, (2) is present at the scene of the injury-producing event at the time it occurs and is then aware that it is causing injury to the victim and, (3) as a result suffers emotional distress beyond that which would be anticipated in a disinterested witness.

FACTS:

A mother filed for damages for emotional distress against the driver of an automobile who injured her child. The trial court held that a mother who did not witness an accident in which an automobile struck and injured her child could not recover damages from the driver for the negligent infliction of emotional distress suffered when she arrived at the accident scene. On appeal, however, the reviewing court reversed.

ISSUE:

Can the petitioner sue and recover damages for emotional distress caused by an inflicted injury that the petitioner is not an eyewitness to?

ANSWER:

No

CONCLUSION:

The court reversed and did not allow the recovery of damages. The Court refined the guidelines for negligent infliction of emotional distress to create greater certainty, as foreseeability was not a meaningful restriction. In the absence of physical injury or impact to the plaintiff personally, damages for emotional distress would be recoverable only if the plaintiff: (1) was closely related to the injury victim, (2) was present at the scene of the injury-producing event at the time it occurs and was then aware that it was causing injury to the victim and, (3) as a result suffered emotional distress beyond that which would be anticipated in a disinterested witness. Moreover, the court avoids limitless liability to such cases wherein victims who were not physically injured by act.

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