Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Thing v. La Chusa case brief

Thing v. La Chusa case brief summary
771 P.2d 814 (Cal. 1989)

Defendants appealed from an opinion of the Court of Appeal (California) which reversed the trial court's decision denying recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress because plaintiff did not contemporaneously perceive the accident injuring of 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, and the reviewing court reversed.


  • The court reversed again, refining 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.

The trial court's judgment was reversed because foreseeability of the injury alone was not a meaningful restriction on the scope of an action for negligent infliction of emotional distress, and contemporaneous awareness of a sudden occurrence causing injury was a prerequisite to recovery.

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