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Armstrong v. Paoli Memorial Hospital

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Armstrong (plaintiff) brought suit against Paoli Memorial Hospital (defendant) for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    In order for a plaintiff to recover for a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress she must be a foreseeable plaintiff and suffer some sort of physical injury.

    Facts.

    Plaintiff was called by the defendant and informed her husband had been in a terrible accident and he was in critical condition. When plaintiff arrived at the hospital the doctors would not allow plaintiff to see her husband. After discussing the husband’s x rays with the doctor, over an hour later, the plaintiff’s sister looked at the car accident victim and realized the doctors mixed up the plaintiff’s husband with another man. The man that was in the accident was not the plaintiffs husband. Upon being informed that the victim wasn't her husband the plaintiff proceeded to lose control of her bowels, had frequent nightmares, and became depressed. Plaintiff brought a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress and was awarded $1000 at trial. 

    Issue.

    Whether in order for a plaintiff to recover for a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress she must be a foreseeable plaintiff and suffer some sort of physical injury.

    Held.

    Yes. In order for a plaintiff to recover for a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress she must be a foreseeable plaintiff and suffer some sort of physical injury.

    Concurrence.

    None

    Discussion.

    When a plaintiff alleges negligent infliction of emotional distress they must be a foreseeable plaintiff. In order for a bystander to be a foreseeable plaintiff they must be close to the accident when it happens, witness the accident, and have a close relationship with the victim such as mother/father. While the plaintiff in this case did suffer physical injuries, she was nowhere near the accident when it happened. Also, she had no relationship with the actual victim nor did she even know the victim. Thus, the plaintiff has failed to state a claim because she cannot satisfy all the elements for the alleged cause of action.


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