SW Legal Educational Publishing

Rescuer Suffering Emotional Distress From Witnessing Death of Stranger May Not Recover
Description A person who witnesses the death of an unrelated person does not have a claim for emotional distress in Massachusetts. The distress may be real, but the law must limit liability with some certainty.
Topic Torts
Key Words Emotional Distress, Rescue
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Migliori, trained in CPR, came upon a person who had been negligently hit by a truck. Migliori administered CPR to the badly bleeding victim, who soon died. Migliori developed emotional distress. This question was certified to the Massachusetts high court from U.S. District Court: "Does a person who witnesses or comes upon the scene of an accident and voluntarily renders aid to a victim to who he or she has no familial ... relationship, have cognizable claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress under Massachusetts law if (1) the rescue attempt fails, and as a result, (2) the rescuer suffers severe emotional distress which (3) further leads to physical problems?"
Decision No. Every injury has consequences, like rippling waters, without end. "The problem for the law is to limit the legal consequences of wrongs to a controllable degree." "Only a bystander plaintiff who is closely related to a third person directly unjured by a defendant's tortious conduct, and suffers emotional injuries as a result... states a claim for which relief may be granted." The need for such a rule is "based more on the pragmatic need to limit the scope of potential liability, than on grounds of fairness...."
Citation Migliori v. Airborne Freight Corp., ---N.E.2d--- (1998 WL 51727, Sup.Jud.Ct., Mass.)
690 N.E.2d 413 (Sup.Jud.Ct., Mass., 1998)

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