TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Friday, June 28, 2019

AK: Bystander NIED Claims Don't Require Contemporaneous Knowledge of Negligence

Doan v. Banner Health, Inc.,2019 WL 2312537 

Holding:  A bystander claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) does not depend on the plaintiff’s contemporaneous realization that the injuries she observed were negligently caused.

A mother, who was in a hospital waiting room when her daughter died, brought a NIED claim against medical providers for the distress she suffered upon seeing her daughter’s body.  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the medical providers, finding the NIED claim failed because the mother offered no evidence that she contemporaneously understood that her daughter’s death was due to alleged negligence on the part of caregivers.  The Alaska Supreme Court reversed this decision, holding as a matter of law that a viable bystander NIED claim does not require a plaintiff to contemporaneously comprehend her injuries were negligently caused.   The court reasoned that there is no requirement in other negligence cases that a plaintiff must contemporaneously comprehend whether an injury is negligently caused, and that NIED claims should not be treated differently.  The court added that to “require that an emotionally distressed plaintiff also recognize negligence as it is occurring is asking too much.”

(From Shook, Hardy & Bacon's State Supreme Court Watch)

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