Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Miller v. Willbanks case brief

Miller v. Willbanks case summary
8 S.W.3d 607 (Tenn. 1999)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Plaintiffs appealed a Tennessee Court of Appeals judgment affirming the trial court's dismissal, upon the defendants' motion for dismissal or summary judgment of the plaintiffs' claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

-Plaintiffs sued the defendant physician, pediatric associate group, and hospital for the intentional infliction of emotional distress arising from the defendant physician's assertion that plaintiffs' newborn child suffered from drug withdrawal syndrome, subsequently disproved by drug tests. -Defendants moved for dismissal or summary judgment, which the trial court granted due to plaintiffs' lack of necessary expert evidence supporting their claims of serious mental injury. An intermediate appellate court affirmed.

In reversing, the state's highest court ruled that expert medical or scientific proof of a serious mental injury was generally not required to maintain an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. Other forms of proof could also be used, including a claimant's testimony, testimony of other lay witnesses acquainted with the claimant, and physical manifestations of emotional distress. The court reversed the lower court judgments and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.


To establish a prima facie case of intentional infliction of emotional distress: (1) the conduct complained of must be intentional or reckless; (2) the conduct must be so outrageous that it is not tolerated by civilized society; and (3) the conduct must result in serious mental injury to the plaintiff.

CONCLUSION: The court reversed the lower court judgments and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. Plaintiffs were not required to present expert proof of serious mental injury to maintain their claims. Other forms of proof could be used, including lay testimony and physical manifestations of distress.

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