Daley v. LaCroix

Procedural History

Daley v. LaCroix (1970)

Court of Appeal’s affirmed the trial courts holding (directed verdict, no jury) that denies recovery for negligently causing emotional disturbance absent a showing of physical impact.


–          LaCroix (Defendant) got into a ridiculous car crash, knocked down a number of high voltage lines, leading to Daley’s (Plaintiff’s) house and causing a great electrical explosion resulting in considerable property damage.

–          Estelle Dailey (P) – suffered traumatic neurosis, emotional disturbance and nervous upset – Timothy Dailey (Plaintiff’s child) suffered emotional disturbance and nervousness as a result of the explosion and the attendant circumstances.


Can a plaintiff recover damages for emotional distress, lacking any physical impact?




A plaintiff who has suffered physical injury as a result of emotional distress caused by the defendant’s negligence may recover damages even in the absence of any physical impact upon the plaintiff.

Court reasoning

–          Fearing a flood of cases, courts have generally denied recovery without any physical impact:

  1. Where there is a definite and objective physical injury is produced as a result of emotional distress proximately caused by the D’s negligence, the P in a properly pleaded  and proved action may recover in damages for such physical consequences to himself not withstanding actual physical impact.
  2. D’s standard of conduct is measured by reactions to be expected of normal persons.
  3. P has the burden of proof that the physical illness is the natural result of the fright proximately caused by the D’s conduct.

–          Needs to be proven by scientific testimony, and the P’s cannot claim for mental distress which is beyond what a “normal” person would suffer.


There were sufficient facts, in light of the new rule, where a jury would be able to decide whether or not the P’s suffered emotional distress from the injury.

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