Last month, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, issued a decision in the case of Seybold v. Clapis, discussing the tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress as it relates to car accident claims. In Seybold, the plaintiffs, Mandy Seybold, John Seybold, and their two children, were preparing to leave the Disney All-Star Movie Resort. John Seybold was in the hotel checking out as Mandy Seybold waited near their vehicle containing the children. As Mandy and the children waited, Mandy was struck by a car driven by the defendant, Victor Clapis. Hearing his wife scream, John Seybold went outside to find Mandy Seybold’s pinned between the vehicles. Clapis put his car into park, leaving Mandy Seybold pinned. A bystander moved the Seybold’s vehicle, freeing Mandy Seybold’s leg. Although the incident took place on Walt Disney’s property, no Disney employees came to assist Mandy Seybold.
The Seybolds sued both Clapis and Disney, allege claims on behalf of John Seybold and the children against Disney for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Disney moved to dismiss these claims, arguing that the Seybolds would not be able to prove the elements of a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Under Florida law, the elements necessary to prove a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress differ depending on whether or not the plaintiff suffered a physical impact from an external force. If the plaintiff has suffered an impact, he or she may recover for emotional distress resulting from the incident during which the impact occurred.
If the plaintiff has not suffered an impact, he or she must establish that: (1) the emotional distress “manifested by physical injury”; (2) he or she was “involved” in the incident by seeing, hearing, or arriving on the scene as the traumatizing event occurred; and (3) he or she suffered from the emotional mental distress and physical manifestation of the distress “within a short time” of the incident.
In it’s motion to dismiss, Disney argued that the Seybolds could not prove that their emotional distress flowed from a physical impact, and, because the emotional distress did not manifested itself in physical injury, they could not establish the necessary elements of the claim.
The Miami car accident attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured in car accident cases. If you or someone you know has been injured by the negligence of another, contact Gerson & Schwartz today.
The District Court partially agreed with Disney, dismissing the John Seybold’s claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, while allowing the claims of the children to remain. In so ruling, the Court opined that John Seybold was inside the resort at the time of the incident and could not have experienced any physical impact. However, the children were “shaken” inside the car as a result of the impact, and therefore sufficiently stated a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. For more information about our law firm, visit www.injuryattorneyfla.com.