SW Legal Educational Publishing

Rescuer of Victims Killed Due to Defendantís Negligence May Not Recover for Psychic Injuries
Description Underwater diver who suffered psychic injuries from witnessing mutilation of bodies trapped underwater may not recover in tort. Rescue doctrine only extends to physical injuries suffered by rescuer, unless negligence directed at rescuer.
Topic Torts
Key Words Rescue Doctrine, Emotional Distress
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Michaud, a professional diver, attempted to help rescue two divers who died during an underwater construction project when they became stuck in holes in a dam. Michaud found the divers dead, held by strong suction. When he attached cables to the bodies to help get them to the surface, he witnessed one body being torn apart when it was pulled by the cable. The event caused him great shock. He was hospitalized and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He sued the construction company where the accident occurred for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Trial court granted summary judgment for defendants. Michaud appealed.
Decision Affirmed. The "indirect victim" who witnesses another person being harmed by a tortfeasorís negligence may recover for serious mental distress only if the injury may be deemed foreseeable when the plaintiff bystander was present at the scene of the accident, suffered distress as a result of observing the accident, and was closely related to the victim. Michaud was not an indirect victim since the negligence was directed at the divers who died and there was no family relationship. The rescue doctrine, whereby the defendant who creates peril may be liable to a rescuer for physical injuries incurred during rescue, does not extend to psychic injuries.
Citation Michaud v. Great Northern Nekoosa Corp., ó A.2d ó (1998 WL 493098, Sup. Jud. Ct., Me.)
715 A.2d 955 (Sup. Jud., Ct., ME, 1998)

Back to Torts Listings

©1998  South-Western, All Rights Reserved