Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Emotional Distress vs Physical Symptoms

I've written about the differences between negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress here on the blog, as the distinction is often tested on the MBE. Another angle that should be kept in mind is the type of harm necessary to recover for these torts.

When the extreme emotional distress is caused intentionally, then severe emotional distress will suffice for recovery. In other words, proof of physical injury or symptoms accompanying the emotional distress is not necessary.

In contrast, in most jurisdictions, recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress is limited to those situations in which physical symptoms result from the distress. There are only two exceptions that will allow for recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress even without physical symptoms. The first is if there is an erroneous report of a relative's death and the second is if there is a mishandling of a relative's corpse.

One other important point to keep in mind regarding negligent infliction of emotional distress is that the law does not recognize a claim for damages for emotional distress where the negligence of another causes only property damage to the person claiming distress. Of course, there may be another theory to recover for the other's negligence, but the claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress caused by the property loss would be the wrong claim, and therefore the wrong answer choice on the MBE.

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