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Mitchell v. Rochester Railway

Citation. 151 N.Y. 107
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Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff testified that the fright and excitement caused by Defendant’s approach and proximity of the horse-driven car resulted in her miscarriage and other injuries.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

No recovery can be had for injuries sustained by fright occasioned by the negligence of another, where there is no immediate personal injury.


Plaintiff was standing upon a crosswalk on Main Street awaiting an opportunity to board one of Defendant’s cars, which had stopped upon the street. While standing there, a horse-drawn car of Defendant came down the street. As the horse-drawn car drew near, it turned to the right and came close to Plaintiff, so that she stood between the horses’ heads when they were stopped. Plaintiff testified that the fright and excitement caused by Defendant’s approach and proximity resulted in her miscarriage and other injuries. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence.


Is Plaintiff entitled to recover for Defendant’s negligence, which occasioned her fright and alarm and resulted in injuries?


No. Judgment for Defendant.
* Plaintiff cannot recover for injuries occasioned by fright, as there is no immediate personal injury.
* The right of action must depend on the question whether a recovery may be had for fright. If it can, then an action may be maintained, however slight the injury. If not, then there can be no recovery, no matter how grave or serious the consequences.
* If a right of recovery for negligent fright were established, there would be a flood of litigation in cases when the injury complained of may be easily feigned without detection and damages would rest upon conjecture and speculation. To establish such a right would be contrary to principles of public policy.
* It cannot be properly said that Plaintiff’s miscarriage was the proximate cause of Defendant’s negligence. Proximate damages are such as are the ordinary and natural results of the negligence charged, and those that are usual and may, therefore, be expected.
* The injuries to Plaintiff were plainly the result of an accidental or unusual combination of circumstances over which Defendant had no control, and, hence, Plaintiff’s damages are too remote to justify recovery.


There must be some physical injury in order to sustain a cause of action of negligent infliction of emotional distress.

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