The Tort of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in Tennessee

medical-doctor-1314902-mThe tort of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress is a cause of action brought by someone who witnesses a traumatic event, usually to a loved one, and suffers some kind of emotional or physical reaction as a result. A common example is a lawsuit brought by a surviving passenger in a fatal car accident involving loved ones. The most commonly disputed element of the cause of action is the “reaction” element. Tennessee courts have held that expert proof of emotional disturbance is required in some cases where there is no physical reaction to the event. This is a requirement in many cases, in order to verify that the reaction is legitimate and also to keep trivial suits out of the court system.

In a recent case in front of the Tennessee Court of Appeals, the court had the opportunity to explain what the tort Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress was, and how the elements can be met under Tennessee law.

Rye v. Women’s Care Center of Memphis

In Rye v. Women’s Care Center of Memphis, the Tennessee Court of Appeals considered a case where a women’s center negligently failed to provide a certain shot to an expecting mother, and she developed a condition that meant her future pregnancies would all be “high risk.” As a result of the center’s failure, and her resulting condition, the woman brought a Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress claim against the center.

At issue in the case was the physical manifestation requirement to the cause of action. The defendants admitted that they were negligent, but claimed that the husband didn’t manifest any physical symptom and thus didn’t meet the requirements to bring the suit.

After a lengthy discussion of the history of the “physical reaction” element, the court came to the following conclusion regarding what kind of proof of harm a plaintiff must provide: “a plaintiff may recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress without the need for expert proof when the claim is accompanied by ‘physical injury or physical consequences,’ or another ‘independent basis for tort liability.’”

The woman’s husband also brought a claim although he had suffered no physical injury and had not presented expert proof of emotional distress.

In conclusion, the court allowed both the woman’s claim and her husband’s claim to move forward, noting that the “failure to submit expert proof to support his negligent infliction of emotional distress claim prior to the trial in this case is not sufficient to support” a denial of his claim this early in the proceeding.

Are You Considering Bringing a Tennessee Personal Injury Claim?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an accident in Nashville or the surrounding areas, you should speak with a dedicated Tennessee personal injury attorney as soon as possible to determine if you may have a case against the parties who caused your injury. The legal landscape of Tennessee negligence law is ever changing. By consulting with a dedicated Tennessee personal injury attorney you will feel more comfortable assessing your options before you move forward. At Matt Hardin Law, we have years of experience helping our clients recover from those who caused their injuries. Call 615-200-1111 to schedule your free initial consultation today.

See Related Blog Posts:

Plaintiff Wins Appeal of Tennessee Nursing Home Negligence Case Based on Understaffing, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published May 21, 2014.

September 2012 Bus Accident Determined To Be an Accident, Nashville Injury Lawyer’s Blog, published May 5, 2014.

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