The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that the three-year statute of limitation applies for emotional distess claims arising out of injury to property "inspired by fraud, malice or like motives."
The Trial Court and Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of the claim for emotional injuries because the lawsuit was not filed within one year. The TSC reversed on this issue, holding that "[t]he gravamen of the Whaleys’ complaint is that the defendants’ actions injured their property, and the damages they sought for emotional distress were “damages aris[ing] wholly as a result of the injury to plaintiffs’ property and not as a result of anything personally done to them.” In other words, the Whaleys’ “claim” for damages for emotional distress was merely an element of their overall claim for damages for the injury to their property and not a stand-alone cause of action. Consequently, the three-year property tort statute of limitations applies, and the intermediate court erred in holding that the one-year personal injury statute of limitations barred the Whaleys’ claim for damages for emotional distress."
Turning to another issue, the Court also held that "the Defendants’ violation of the Shelby County subdivision regulation does not warrant the application of the doctrine of negligence per se." The Court agreed with the Court of Appeals on this issue, and adopted this language from the opinion of the lower appellate court: "these subdivision regulations were enacted largely for reasons related to quality of life, among them, assuring adequate public facilities for residents, minimizing pollution, providing for orderly layout and use of land, protecting the value of land, preventing overcrowding, and assuring effective traffic circulation. The harm alleged by the Whaleys is not a harm the regulations were designed to prevent, but rather, it is an accidental consequence of a [regulation] enacted to prevent other harms to the community and its residents that could be caused by the unregulated subdivision of land."
The case is Whaley v. Perkins, No. W2004-02058-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. July 14, 2006). Read the opinion here.