Injured child's family can sue for emotional distress

Family members who saw a young boy bloodied and apparently lifeless immediately after he was struck by a car can sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress according to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The mother and siblings of a boy who was struck by a vehicle in front of his school sustained permanent brain damage.

When the mother arrived with her other children they saw the boy lying unattended on the pavement in a pool of blood. They screamed and tried to reach him but were restrained.

The family sued the driver and the school district. They also served their own insurer with the complaint pursuant to the state's underinsured motorist law.

The insurer asserted that the family's emotional distress claims failed because they didn't witness the event that actually caused the child's injury.

The family argued that sensory observation was not an essential element of the claim due to their close relationship with the child.

The court cited similar cases from New Hampshire, New Jersey, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The name of the case is Eskin v. Bartee, No. W2006-01336-SC-R11-CV.