Daley v. LaCroix case brief
Michigan Supreme, 1970
Michigan Supreme, 1970
Facts: Defendants vehicle leaves the highway, traveling 63 feet in the air and 209 feet beyond edge of the road and shearing off utility pole which struck plaintiffs house and caused a giant electrical explosion with considerable property damage. Plaintiff claim in addition to property damage that Estelle suffered traumatic neurosis, emotional disturbance and Timothy suffered emotional disturbance and nervousness. Trial ct for defendant, appeals affirmed because Michigan law denies recovery for negligent causing of emotional disturbance without physical impact.
Decision: Reversed as to plaintiffs. New trials ordered
Reasoning: Courts in Michigan never allowed a cause of action under a negligent infliction of emotional distress and many cases supporting that fact. It required a physical act to allow recovery for negligent infliction. Landmark decision of Victorian Railways pretty much states that it would be hard to prove proximate cause that negligence caused the mental trouble and a wide field for imaginary claims would exist. Said that all mental troubles show degree of fright and since fright is not a cause of action, degrees of fright should not matter. Courts decided to change their rule from impact equaling emotional harm for one that allows for a mental issue to extend into physical realm, and to allow a cause of action for that. They put limitations on that, one such limit requires (without special knowledge of plaintiff’s state of mind) that plaintiff not suffer harm that an ordinary person would not. If it is harm that a sensitive person would suffer but not an ordinary person then no recovery.
For Daley’s, no good supporting testimony that recovery is necessary in this case. One person was already neurotic while other person did not have any evidence so case denied. Timothy was allowed a jury trial but Estelle was not. However there was enough testimony to allow a jury to decide the case and damages. They all suffered fright of a kind and it is up to jury to decide if it really was convincing evidence.
Holding: Where a definite and objective physical injury is produced as a result of emotional distress proximately caused by defendant’s negligent conduct, plaintiff may recover damages for such physical consequences even without physical impact at time of mental shock.