Sunday, April 16, 2006

Nebraska Supreme Court refuses to expand negligent emotional distress claims beyond existing case law that requires either 1) close family relationship with victim of negliegence or 2) presence in the "zone of danger" along with victim of physical injury Catron v. Lewis, 271 Neb. 416 Filed April 14, 2006. No. S-04-1212. Nebraska's own Jerry Spence Maren Chaloupka took up to the Supremes her claim that emotional distress claims could apply to just about anybody who experienced shock after a horrible accident. Her client attemtped to save a victim of a boating accident involving careless jet skiers and claimed he expereienced distress after pulling the severely injured swimmer from the water. The District Court granted summary judgment on the ground the conduct was not distressful enough. Supremes reverse on other grounds, sticking to the existing "zone of danger" rule; interesting that the Supreme Court would not discuss what kinds of accidents might lead to zone of danger distress claims The plaintiff seeking to bring an action for negligent infliction of emotional distress who has not been impacted or injured must show either (1) that he or she is a reasonably foreseeable "bystander" victim based upon an intimate familial relationship with a seriously injured victim of the defendant's negligence or (2) that the plaintiff was a "direct victim" of the defendant's negligence because the plaintiff was within the zone of danger of the negligence in question. See, Hamilton v. Nestor, 265 Neb. 757, 659 N.W.2d 321 (2003); James v. Lieb, 221 Neb. 47, 375 N.W.2d 109 (1985). In addition, such plaintiffs whose only injury is an emotional one must show that their emotional distress is medically diagnosable and significant and is so severe that no reasonable person could have expected to endure it. See Hamilton v. Nestor, supra This court has extended the class of potential plaintiffs to "bystanders" outside the zone of danger who have a close familial relationship with a seriously injured victim because, as the court in Migliori v. Airborne Freight Corporation, 426 Mass. 629, 637, 690 N.E.2d 413, 418 (1998), explained, "[p]ersons bearing close 'familial or other relationship' to the directly injured third person comprise a discrete and well-defined class, membership in which is determined by preexisting relationships." For witnesses having no such close relationship with the victim, however, we limit recoverability to those persons who are within the zone of danger of the negligent conduct which resulted in the incident in question.

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