Thursday, October 29, 2009

Illinois Supreme Court rules no need for experts in NIED case

In a decision released TODAY, the Illinois Supreme Court holds that a plaintiff does not need to support a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress with expert testimony. Specifically, the court stated that "[w]e hold that expert testimony, while it may assist the jury, is not required to support a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress" and that "[t]he absence of medical testimony does not preclude recovery for emotional distress. Rather, “[t]he existence or nonexistence of medical testimony goes to the weight of the evidence but does not prevent this issue from being submitted to the jury.”" The court concluded, therefore, that the jury can reasonably find whether the circumstances of a case cause emotional distress based on personal experience.

This is a particularly timely and interesting development given the fact that just yesterday we began our discussion of negligent infliction of emotional distress in my first year Torts class!

In class, we discussed the development of the tort from the days where courts felt we did not know enough about emotional distress to recognize a claim at all, to the days when courts said we don't know enough about it to allow the claim absent physical manifestations and so on. Illinois had abandoned the requirement of showing physical manifestation already years ago. With this decision, Illinois has moved the history of the tort even further.

The case is Thorton v Garcini and it is available here.

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