Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Burgess v. Superior Court case brief

Burgess v. Superior Court case brief summary
831 P.2d 1197 (1992)

CASE SYNOPSIS
The court granted review of a decision of the appellate court, which had granted petitioner patient a writ of mandate vacating a summary adjudication order entered by respondent Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California) in favor of doctor and hospital, real parties in interest in the appeal, on petitioner's claim for damages for negligently inflicted emotional distress.

CASE FACTS
Petitioner patient sought damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress against doctor and hospital, real parties in interest, following negligent delivery of her child. The appellate court granted petitioner a writ of mandate vacating respondent superior court's summary adjudication in favor of doctor and hospital. The court granted review and affirmed the appellate court's writ.

HOLDING
The court held that the criteria for recovery by bystanders for negligent infliction of emotional distress was not controlling because doctor and hospital owed a preexisting physician-patient duty of care to petitioner.

DISCUSSION

  • The negligence during delivery which caused injury to the fetus and resultant emotional anguish to respondent breached a duty owed directly to respondent because such distress was reasonably foreseeable. 
  • Lack of physical injury did not defeat petitioner's claim. 
  • The court further rejected the doctor's and the hospital's public policy arguments against a finding of liability. 
  • While petitioner could not recover damages for loss of filial consortium, such limitation did not bar her from complete recovery for emotional distress damages arising from the negligent delivery.
CONCLUSION
The court affirmed the appellate court's writ vacating respondent superior court's summary adjudication in favor of doctor and hospital, real parties in interest, because petitioner patient was not a bystander but a patient entitled to a duty of care based on the physician/patient relationship. The court further held that petitioner was entitled to emotional distress damages but could not recover damages for loss of filial consortium.


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