The fungal meningitis outbreak will result in four different classes of those with claims for damages against those who are responsible for the harm: (1)those who die; (2) those who contract the disease and are treated with no long-range effects; (3) those who contract the disease, are treated, but are left with long-range effects; and, (4) those who learn they were exposed to the contaminated product but never contracted the disease. (Note: I understand this is a simple breakdown and that in fact there will be several sub-groups within one or more of these groups.)
Do the people in the last grouping have a claim for damages under Tennessee law? That is, if a person can prove that he or she was exposed to the contaminated product, knew of the exposure, experienced understandable emotional distress after he or she learned of the exposure, is there a claim for damages under Tennessee law?
I believe the answer to that question is "yes." The case I turn to for support of this opinion is Carroll v. Sisters of St. Francis Health Services, Inc., 868 S.W.2d 585 (Tenn. 1993). The issue in Carroll was whether a plaintiff may recover damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress, based on the fear of contracting the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), without presenting evidence that he or she was actually exposed to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV or the AIDS virus) The Court answered this question "no" and dismissed the case.