(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the proceedings.)
The mother in Wilks was not present at the exact moment of the specific act of negligence In Wilks, the child was injured; but the mother could claim emotional distress because of a continuing event. Consequently, the defense argument that the Plaintiffs’ must view a specific act of negligence That argument is not valid; because it assumes a singular event. Here, the husband and sister were certainly present and sensorially aware of the decedent’s injuries.
Further, the Supreme Court in Ochoa v. Superior Court (1985) 39 Cal.3d 159, disapproved the argument that required a sudden, brief occurrence viewed contemporaneously by the plaintiff (the exact moment argument): Our review … leads us to the conclusion that the sudden occurrence requirement is an unwarranted restriction on the Dillon [Dillon v. Legg (1968) 68 Cal.2d 728] guidelines. Such a restriction arbitrarily limits liability when there is a high degree of foreseeability of shock to the plaintiff …. (Ochoa, supra, 39 Cal.3d at p. 168.) In Ochoa, the decedent was a thirteen year old male who died after an ongoing illness while in the infirmary of juvenile hall and this ongoing illness was witnessed by Gloria Ochoa, his mother. Gloria Ochoa viewed the symptoms of her child’s decline in health. The Supreme Court found that contemporaneous observation can include the viewing of lack of medical care:
We are satisfied that when there is observation of the defendant’s conduct and the child’s injury and contemporaneous awareness of the defendant’s conduct or lack thereof is causing harm to the child, recovery is permitted. (Ochoa, supra, 39 Cal.3d at p. 170.) Contrary to the defense, the husband and sister here can claim emotional distress for the Defendants lack of proper treatment of the decedent.
Further, Ochoa held the Plaintiff does not have to know whether there was medical negligence: [We by no means suggest… that plaintiff must be aware of the tortious nature of defendant’s actions. (Ochoa, supra, 39 Cal.3d at p. 170.) (See Part 5 of 6.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.