North Carolina Appellate Court Reverses Dismissal of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress in Child Wrongful Death Case

Losing a child is perhaps the most horrific thing that a parent can experience, particularly if it happens as the result of another person’s carelessness. Although no amount of money can truly repair the damage and pain that your family has experienced as a result of the sudden loss, it can help you cope with the financial burden associated with the loss. As seasoned Charlotte personal injury lawyers handling wrongful death cases, we are prepared to help you determine whether your family is entitled to compensation from the person who caused your child’s death.

Recently, the North Carolina Court of Appeal considered a case in which the plaintiffs left the minor child in the care of the defendants, who ran an unlicensed childcare facility in their home. They regularly cared for the plaintiffs’ child. On one occasion, the defendants reportedly had a loaded 12-gauge shotgun on the kitchen table that the children were able to access. One of the defendants had not completed a firearms safety course. One of the defendants’ children discharged the shotgun in the direction of the plaintiffs’ child, resulting in her death.

The plaintiffs filed a wrongful death claim and included claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiff’s father heard about the shooting over a CB radio and saw the ambulance pass him, knowing that his daughter was inside. He followed the ambulance to the hospital and saw his daughter being unloaded. He was told at that time that his child died in the ambulance. The mother of the child taught at a school nearby and immediately came to the hospital where she held her daughter’s lifeless body until she was required to leave.

A trial court judge initially dismissed (NIED) these claims, and the plaintiffs appealed dismissal of the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim only.  The main issue on appeal is whether it was foreseeable that the plaintiffs would suffer emotional distress as a result of the situation. The plaintiff in a NIED claim must show that the defendant was negligent, that it was foreseeable that the negligent conduct would cause the plaintiff severe emotional distress , and that the negligent conduct specifically caused the plaintiff to suffer mental anguish.

The appellate court reviewed the facts in the record and reversed the lower court’s dismissal of the NIED claim. The defendants failed to unload, check, or remove the firearm from the kitchen table and it was foreseeable that the plaintiffs would suffer severe mental anguish as a result of this conduct, which did, in fact, occur through the plaintiffs not only losing their child, but seeing the ambulance in which she was being driven and seeing her immediately after she died as a result of the gunshot wound.

If your child suffered harm or if you lost a child as a result of someone else’s conduct, you may be entitled to compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. At Maurer Law, our Charlotte personal injury lawyers have seen firsthand how damaging this situation can be for a family. We know that a legal response may be the last thing you are thinking about at this time, which is why we offer a free consultation to help you learn about your options and how we can help you. We handle all aspects of your case including investigation and dealing with insurance companies. Call us now at 1-844-817-8058 or contact us online.