TSC Releases NIED Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court has released the opinion in Eskin v. Bartee and  expanded the scope of recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The bottom line:  "we have determined that it is appropriate and fair to permit recovery of damages for the negligent infliction of emotional distress by plaintiffs who have a close personal relationship with an injured party and who arrive at the scene of the accident while the scene is in essentially the same condition it was in immediately after the accident."

The key change is found in the words "arrive at the scene of the accident."  Before this decision, the plaintiff was required to have seen or heard the injury causing event. 

Here are an elements of the cause of action:

"When a plaintiff did not witness the injury-producing event, the cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress requires proof of the following elements: (1) the actual or apparent death or serious physical injury of another caused by the defendant’s negligence, (2) the existence of a close and intimate personal relationship between the plaintiff and the deceased or injured person, (3) the plaintiff’s observation of the actual or apparent death or serious physical injury at the scene of the accident before the scene has been materially altered, and (4) the resulting serious or severe emotional injury to the plaintiff caused by the observation of the death or injury."  [Footnote omitted.]

The opinion was authored by Justice Koch.  As one would expect, it includes an excellent recitation of the development of the tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress in Tennessee.

Citation:  Eskin v. Bartee,  No. W2006-01336-SC-R11-CV  (Tenn.  Aug. 2008).  Read it here.