South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Family Members Who Lost Other Family Members in Air Crash Cannot Recover for Mental Distress

Trial court dismissed a claim for mental distress for members of a family who lost two family members in a house hit by a plane in an accident. Since the survivors did not witness the crash or suffer direct physical injury themselves, there is no mental distress claim.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Mental Distress; Wrongful Death; Damages

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

A mother and her son were killed when an American Airlines plane hit their house in New York. The father and surviving children, who were not home at the time of the accident, sued for mental distress. The airline moved to dismiss the claim.


Motion granted. Under New York law, the surviving family members cannot recover damages for alleged mental injuries. They did not observe the accident, they were not physically harmed themselves, and did not witness the deaths. They can recover for loss of support, loss of household services, and loss of parental care and guidance.


Lawler v. American Airlines, Inc., ---F.Supp.2d--- (2006 WL 2742029, S.D.N.Y., 2006)

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