There are a number of ways in which a person who is involved in a car accident in Florida may attempt to recover damages for any injuries caused. In Seybold v. Clapis, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida explains what needs to be proved in order to recover on a theory of negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The case stemmed from an accident at the Disney All-Star Movie Resort in Orlando, where the Seybold family was wrapping up a vacation. The family car was parked out front as Mr. Seybold checked out of the resort and Ms. Seybold stood behind the vehicle, reaching into the back window. The couple’s two children were inside the car. Victor Clapis, a resort worker, struck Ms. Seybold with a second car, pinning her between his and the family’s vehicles. Although she began to scream, Calpis left the car where it was and Ms. Seybold was not freed until a bystander moved the family vehicle.
The Seybolds sued Clapis and Disney, alleging a number of claims, including negligent infliction of emotional distress claims on behalf of Mr. Seybold and the two children. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss these claims, arguing that the Seybolds had to establish that the emotional distress caused by the accident flowed from a physical injury sustained in the accident or otherwise manifested itself in physical injury. Opposing the motion, the Seybolds argued that they could recover regardless of physical injury because the emotional distress was caused by a physical impact.
The District Court agreed with the defendants. “The Court notes that the evolution of Florida Supreme Court case law on this issue is muddled at best,” it explained. Citing the state supreme court’s 2007 decision in Willis v. Gami Golden Glades, the court said there are “two paths to recovery: one experiences a physical impact during the incident and suffers emotional distress stemming from that incident; or (2) one does not experience a physical impact but is involved in the incident and experiences emotional distress so severe that it manifests as physical injury.”
In this case, neither Mr. Seybold nor the children suffered physical injury resulting from any mental distress caused by the accident. In addition, Mr. Seybold was inside the resort at the time and therefore could not have experienced a physical impact. The Seybolds claimed, however, that the kids were physically shaken as a result of the car’s impact. As a result, their claim met the minimum standard for alleging a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. The court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss with respect to the children’s claim.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, contact the South Florida car accident lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. From offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we serve clients throughout the area, including in Hialeah, Boca Raton and Pompano Beach. Call us toll-free at 800-747-3733 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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