In the case of Deon Williams v. Boyd-Panciera Family Funeral Care, Inc., Case Numbers 4D19-473 and 4D19-838, Florida’s Fourth DCA held that the parents of a deceased child had no claim for emotional distress after a funeral home lost the cremated remains of their child because they could not meet the “impact rule” in Florida.
After a funeral home lost the cremated remains of a miscarried baby, the parents sued for simple negligence and a claim for emotional distress. The funeral home moved for summary judgment claiming that there was no evidence of a physical impact or physical manifestation of emotional distress and that there was no finding that the funeral home’s conduct was willful, wanton, or outrageous.
The trial judge found that the parents did not meet the requirements of the impact rule and that the funeral home’s conduct did not rise to the level of egregiousness required to support a claim for an intentional tort. The Fourth DCA affirmed.
What Is The Impact Rule In Florida?
Florida follows the “impact rule” when it comes to emotional distress claims as a result of negligence. An outline of case law is below:
- Fla. Dep’t of Corr. v. Abril, 969 So. 2d 201, 206 (Fla. 2007) and R.J. v. Humana of Fla., Inc., 652 So. 2d 360, 362 (Fla. 1995)(before a plaintiff can recover damages for emotional distress caused by the negligence of another, the emotional distress suffered must flow from physical injuries … sustained in an impact)
- Zell v. Meek, 665 So. 2d 1048, 1052 (Fla. 1995)(no impact need be shown where psychological trauma could be demonstrated to cause a demonstrable physical injury)
In this case, there was clearly not an impact. There was also not a claim any “physical manifestations” of a psychological injury were present.
In R.J., 652 So. 2d at 364, a court found that “hypertension, pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life” are “intangible, mental injuries [that] are insufficient to meet the physical injury required under the impact rule.”
In LeGrande v. Emmanuel, 889 So. 2d 991, 995 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004), a court found that memory loss and exacerbation of pre-ecisting conditions were insufficient to support a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Further, in Gonzalez v. Metropolitan Dade County Public Health Trust, 651 So. 2d 673, 673 (Fla. 1995), the Florida Supreme Court held that there is not a claim for mental anguish caused by the negligent handling of a dead body in the absence of a physical injury.
Likewise, the impact rule in Florida is meant to prevent questionable emotional distress claims from being brought without a claim for a physical injury. When the law requires a physical injury, it allows the jury to decide for themselves the merit of both the physical and psychological claims instead of just psychological claims alone.
Talk to a Lakeland Personal Injury Lawyer About Your Case
If you have questions about whether you have a valid claim under Florida law, call Russo Law for a free consultation with a personal injury attorney to discuss your case. Schedule your free consultation with us today.