SW Legal studies in Business

Expert Testimony Not Required to Establish Emotional Distress
Description

Illinois high court held that a jury can determine if a plaintiff has established negligent infliction of emotional distress without the need for expert testimony to support the plaintiffís claim.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Emotional Distress; Proof; Expert Testimony

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Toni Thorntonís son, Jason, was born prematurely in the breech position (inverse of the normal position) at 24 weeks and died during delivery attended by nurses. Her doctor, Garcini, arrived at the hospital an hour after the unsuccessful delivery, at which time he finished delivering the dead infant. Thornton sued Dr. Garcini, the hospital, and the nurses for medical negligence and for emotional distress suffered from the delivery. The jury found for plaintiff on the issue of intentional infliction of emotional distress and awarded her $175,000. The hospital and nurses settled with Thornton. The jury held for Thornton in her claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress against Garcini and awarded her $700,000. Garcini appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. Dr. Garcini argues that it was improper for the jury determination to be made based only on Thorntonís testimony about how the delivery and death of the infant caused her emotional harm. He contends that expert testimony was required to establish emotional distress. That is not so. The jury, based on personal experience alone, could have reasonably found that circumstances caused Thornton emotional distress, because of her having to wait for more than an hour for Garcini to arrive with the dead infant protruding from her body during that time. Expert testimony is not necessary for a jury to find that Thornton could have suffered emotional distress.

Citation Thornton v. Garcini, ---N.E.2d--- (2009 WL 3471065, Sup. Ct., Ill., 2009)

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