Michael A. Aspy
Landau, Omahana & Kopka
Carmel, IndianaAttorneys for Appellee
C. Warren Holland
Michael W. Holland
CARL W. CONDER and MOORE-
LANGEN PRINTING COMPANY, INC.,
Appellants (Defendants below),
PRISCILLA WOOD and MICHAEL
Appellees (Plaintiffs below).
) Supreme Court No.
) Court of Appeals No.
After a truck struck and knocked down Plaintiff Priscilla Wood's companion, Wood pounded on the side of the truck in a frantic attempt to get the driver to stop before the truck crushed her companion. We find that Wood sustained the requisite direct impact necessary
to maintain an action in Indiana for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
As the two women crossed the street, Defendant Carl Conder was driving a truck
northbound on Illinois Street and was attempting a right turn onto New York Street. Wood
noticed the truck coming toward them and yelled that the truck was not going to stop. Wood
then jumped out of the path of the oncoming truck and attempted to pull Brittain out of
harm's way. However, before Brittain had a chance to react, the right front wheel of
Conder's truck struck her, hurling her to the pavement.
As the truck continued to roll forward, it came close to where Wood was standing. Brittain was lying in the direct path of the truck's rear wheels. Fearing that the truck would run over Brittain again, Wood began pounding on the panels of the truck trailer as it moved past her, trying to get the driver's attention. The truck came to a stop just before the rear
wheels ran over Brittain's head. Brittain died at the scene.
On August 31, 1995, Wood and her husband filed a complaint for damages against
Conder and Moore-Langen Printing Company, Inc.See footnote
They sought recovery for physical and
emotional injuries resulting from the incident, including bruises to Wood's left arm,
emotional and psychological trauma, stress-related headaches, insomnia, and personality
changes. In addition, they sought recovery for her husband's loss of consortium. At trial,
Defendants moved for summary judgment, which the trial court denied. The Court of
Appeals reversed, finding that because Wood had not suffered any direct physical impact
from Conder's negligence, she was precluded under the modified impact rule from
recovering for her emotional distress. Conder v. Wood, 691 N.E.2d 490, 493 (Ind. Ct. App.
injury, in turn, caused the emotional distress. Boston v. Chesapeake & O. Ry., 223 Ind. 425,
428-29, 61 N.E.2d 326, 327 (1945). Put another way, the rule mandated that damages for
emotional distress were recoverable only when the distress was accompanied by, and
resulted from, a physical injury caused by an impact to the person seeking recovery. New
York, Chicago, & St. Louis R.R. Co. v. Henderson, 237 Ind. 456, 477, 146 N.E.2d 531,
542-3 (1957). Actionable emotional distress had to be the natural and direct result of the
plaintiff's physical injury. Boston, 233 Ind. at 428-29, 61 N.E.2d at 327.
However, in Shuamber v. Henderson, 579 N.E.2d 452 (Ind. 1991), this Court
reformulated this longstanding rule. In Shuamber, a mother and daughter were involved in
an automobile accident in which a younger family member died. Both mother and daughter
sustained various physical injuries, but did not seek recovery for emotional trauma arising
out of their own physical injuries. Instead, they sought recovery for emotional trauma
caused by witnessing the death of a younger family member. As such, the Shuambers were
precluded from recovery under the impact rule then in effect. After analyzing the policies
supporting the impact rule, we came to the conclusion that there was no reason under
appropriate circumstances to refrain from extending recovery [to a plaintiff] for emotional
distress to instances where the distress is the result of physical injury negligently inflicted
on another. Shuamber, 579 N.E.2d at 455.
Id. at 456.See footnote
The modified impact rule maintains the requirement of a direct physical impact.
However, the impact need not cause a physical injury to the plaintiff and the emotional
trauma suffered by the plaintiff need not result from a physical injury caused by the impact.
Applying this modified standard to the facts in Shuamber, this Court found that the
Shuambers were entitled to recovery.
In the present case, Wood contends that the impact she sustained in pounding on Conder's truck as it drove near her, in an attempt to get Conder to stop before striking Brittain a second time, was sufficient to meet the requirements of the modified impact rule. In modifying the impact rule in Shuamber, we recognized the diminished significance of
contemporaneous physical injuries in identifying legitimate claims of emotional trauma from
the mere spurious. Rather, direct impact is properly understood as the requisite measure
of direct involvement in the incident giving rise to the emotional trauma. Viewed in this
context, we find that it matters little how the physical impact occurs, so long as that impact
arises from the plaintiff's direct involvement in the tortfeasor's negligent conduct.See footnote
Wood clearly sustained an impact as she pounded on Defendants' truck in her
effort to prevent it from running over Brittain with its rear wheels. It is also clear that Wood
has alleged that she suffered mental and emotional trauma as a result of her direct
involvement in Defendant's negligent conduct. Accordingly, we find that Wood's
allegations have met the requirements for application of the modified impact rule and that
Defendants were not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, SELBY, and BOEHM, JJ., concur.
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