How Does Florida Legally View Emotional Distress Damages?
While legal situations always demand legal interpretation, most emotional distress lawsuits are practically straightforward in meaning. In many states, emotional distress lawsuits are precisely that: lawsuits where one person is suing an entity for the emotional distress that that entity, through their actions or negligence, caused the person. However, in Florida, emotional distress lawsuits are much more particular.
Emotional Distress Lawsuits in Florida
Emotional distress laws in Florida are generally the same as any other states’ emotional distress laws, with one major exception: the impact rule. This rule demands that, for a claim of emotional distress to be successful, it requires the claimant be “physically impacted” in some way. This means an emotional distress lawsuit will likely fail if the claimant was never “touched” or “harmed” by the entity causing the emotional distress. This has resulted in situations where emotional distress was verifiably evident in a claimant, but their emotional distress lawsuit was disregarded due to their lack of physical injury or “touching” in the given situation.
Emotional Distress Cases That Have Been Disregarded Due to the Impact Rule
The impact rule has forced numerous emotionally distressed Floridians to walk away from a lawsuit with nothing. In one situation, a broken accelerator in a car caused a man to witness the death of his mother; however, because he was not “touched” or “harmed,” he could not sue for emotional distress. In another situation, a man was diagnosed with HIV and believed he had HIV for a year and a half. However, 19 months after the first diagnosis, the man was tested again. This time the test came back negative, revealing the man never had HIV. The man sued the doctor who diagnosed him with HIV for emotional distress, but his case was thrown out because the doctor had not “touched” the man and caused him physical harm.
One Important Emotional Distress Case
One emotional distress case pushed the boundaries of the impact rule and defined “impact” and “touching.” A woman was checking into a hotel when she found that the parking lot was full of cars. A hotel security guard informed her there was parking across the street. When the woman asked if it was safe to park there, the security guard affirmed it was. The woman wanted the guard to come and keep her safe, but the security guard would not go and look after her despite her request to do so.
Alone, the woman decided to park the car where the security guard had recommended. However, as she exited her rental car, she was held up at gunpoint. The man put the gun to her head and put his hands on her. He eventually stole the rental car and left her in the parking lot. The woman sued the hotel owners for emotional distress, and her suit was successful because the man “impacted” her with the tip of his gun. This case defined “impact” as any touching, despite the fact that the touch may not have left physical evidence of injury.
Exceptions to the “Impact” Rule
While many emotional distress cases have been denied due to the impact clause, some exceptions undermine the impact clause and can result in a successful emotional distress suit in the state of Florida:
- Consumption of contaminated foods
- Psychotherapists who breach confidentiality
- Entities that share the results of an HIV test
- Victims of intentional torts (defamation, invasion of privacy)
- Freestanding torts (wrongful birth, negligent stillbirths)
Talk to Our Attorneys About Your Case Today: (305) 770-6335
Due to the “impact” clause found in emotional distress laws in Florida, navigating an emotional distress case can be difficult. However, with the right legal representation, your emotional distress case can be a simple process ending in just compensation. At Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A., our personal injury attorneys are dedicated to providing emotionally distressed individuals professional representation that brings peace of mind. We keep our caseload light so you can get the attention you deserve. This practice of “small client base, big results” has led our firm to recover millions of dollars on behalf of our clients.
If you need answers concerning your emotional distress case, call (305) 770-6335 for a free consultation.