North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim in Fatal High School Football Practice Accident

As seasoned Charlotte personal injury lawyers, we have seen how some of the most painful and damaging injuries can happen in sudden accidents that no one would have anticiapted. Regardless of the reasons behind the accident, if you are the victim of someone else’s negligence you may be entitled to compensation in a personal injury lawsuit for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Contact Maurer Law today to learn more about how we may be able to assist you.

In a recent lawsuit, the North Carolina Court of Appeal considered a claim in which a person reportedly died as the result of an accident involving a four-wheeler that was used at a high school football team practice location. The plaintiffs in the action sued the school for negligent infliction of emotional distress claiming that it was foreseeable as a result of the defendant’s allegedly negligent conduct that they would suffer emotional distress at witnessing their teammate and friend die.

The high school team had access to the vehicle and used it routinely to move items during and after practice. All players were authorized to use the vehicle even though they were minors and despite the fact that many of them were not given appropriate safety and operation training for the device.

On the day that the accident took place, one of the coaches instructed a player to carry jugs of sports drink to a location where certain team members were practicing. The driver did so at an excessive and unsafe speed according to the complaint. The players realized the vehicle was traveling directly toward them and attempted to move out of the way. At the same time, the driver swerved to the right and collided with the decedent causing his head to strike the asphalt running track and the tires of the vehicle to run over his head and body.

The lower court initially dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint and they appealed. On review, they argued that the lower court should not have dismissed their claims because they sufficiently pled enough facts to support their claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress for the team members who witnessed the accident. The appellate court rejected this assertion, noting that North Carolina law requires a case involving a claim for emotional distress requires a showing of a mental or emotional disorder such as chronic depression, phobia, psychosis, or neurosis diagnosed by a trained medical professional. A physical manifestation of the distress is not required. The plaintiff must also show that the alleged negligent conduct would foreseeably cause the plaintiff to suffer emotional distress.

Here, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s ruling finding that the plaintiffs failed to show that the defendants should have known that the players were likely to suffer emotional distress based on the use and operation of the vehicle. They did not show that the plaintiffs and the decedent shared an exceptionally close relationship that would lend itself to severe emotional distress at witnessing his injury.

If you were involved in a Charlotte personal injury accident and believe that you have a claim for damages, call us today to schedule a free consultation. We know how overwhelming this situation can be for you and your family, which is why we handle all aspects of your claim. Call us today at 1-844-817-8058 or contact us online to get started.