Legal Memorandum: Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Issue: Under Virginia law, what are the elements for a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Negligent infliction of emotional distress; Elements
Jurisdiction: Virginia
Cited Cases: 288 Va. 20; 758 S.E.2d 527; 523 S.E.2d 826
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2015

The Virginia Supreme Court recently held:

We adhere to the view that where conduct is merely negligent, not willful, wanton, or vindictive, and physical impact is lacking, there can be no recovery for emotional disturbance alone. We hold, however, that where the claim is for emotional disturbance and physical injury resulting therefrom, there may be recovery for negligent conduct, notwithstanding the lack of physical impact, provided the injured party properly pleads and proves by clear and convincing evidence that his physical injury was the natural result of fright or shock proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence. In other words, there may be recovery in such a case if, but only if, there is shown a clear and unbroken chain of causal connection between the negligent act, the emotional disturbance, and the physical injury.

Anthony v. Verizon Va., Inc., 288 Va. 20, 38, 758 S.E.2d 527, 536-37 (2014) (quoting Delk v. Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., 259 Va. 125, 137-38, 523 S.E.2d 826, 833-34 (2000)).


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