Articles Posted in Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Tennessee Bar Journal, a publication of the Tennessee Bar Association, has published my latest Day on Torts column.   The article discusses a recent opinion of the Tennessee Court of Appeals discussing the proximity element of negligent infliction of emotional claims.




Where plaintiffs’ minor daughter was sexually abused by a church staff member, but plaintiffs did not perceive any injury-producing event, dismissal of their negligent infliction of emotional distress claim was affirmed.

In Doe v. Bellevue Baptist Church, No. W2022-01350-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 7, 2023), plaintiffs brought various claims against defendant church related to their minor daughter being sexually abused by a church staff member, including a claim on their own behalf for negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”). Defendant moved to dismiss this claim, arguing that the complaint never alleged that plaintiffs witnessed or perceived an injury producing event. The trial court agreed and granted the motion to dismiss, and dismissal was affirmed on appeal.

Calling the law surrounding NIED claims “murky and difficult,” the Court of Appeals noted that when a plaintiff does not witness the actual injury-producing event, he or she must show:

Where an attorney advised her client in a family law case that her husband’s actions in distributing a video of the client having sex with another man might be criminal and advised the client to make a true report to the police department, the attorney was not liable for any tort.

In Pagliara v. Moses, No. M2018-02188-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 20, 2020), husband and wife were married, but at some time before the marriage yet while they were dating, wife “used Ecstasy and engaged in sexual relations” with another man “and videotaped their encounter.” After husband and wife were married, the wife of the other man on the video found the video and forwarded it to husband, along with a photograph of a sexual nature. Husband received this information while he was on a business trip in California, and he proceeded to forward a part of the video as well as the photo “to close friends of him and wife.”

Continue reading

In Henderson v. The Vanderbilt University, No. M2016-01876-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 31, 2017), the Court of Appeals overturned summary judgment on a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, holding that “the alleged failure of the defendant hospital to provide care to the plaintiffs’ daughter, despite repeated assurances from the hospital that it would occur, constitutes an injury-producing event that was witnessed by plaintiffs.”

Plaintiffs brought their 10-year-old daughter to defendant hospital for septic shock related to the flu. She was admitted to the pediatric ICU on March 23, 2013, and given fluids and other medicines, but “no central line was placed; no echocardiogram was performed; no one called for a cardiology consult.” On the morning of March 24th, plaintiffs “witnessed their daughter go into cardiac arrest.” Plaintiffs were escorted out of the room while defendant spent two hours performing CPR. After the cardiac arrest, plaintiffs allege that the child’s condition deteriorated, and during a procedure on April 4th, she suffered a stroke and was ultimately pronounced brain dead. Care was withdrawn the child passed away on April 5th.

Continue reading

Contact Information