The Superior Court of Philadelphia County affirmed and Plaintiffs Appealed. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed. Issue: Did Defendant owe Plaintiff, at the time of the accident, a duty of care when Plaintiff was one mile away from the scene of the accident? Holding: Where a close relative is not present at the scene of the accident and instead learns of the accident from a third party, the prior knowledge learned of the accident serves as a buffer against the full-fledged impact of observing the accident scene. Disposition: Order affirmed. Legal Rationale:
Plaintiffs argues recovery under the “reasonably Foreseeability” test, which would allow a Plaintiff outside the “Zone of Danger” to recover, which was adopted in Sinn v. Burd, 486 Pa. 146 (1979). The Court stated in response that the Plaintiff’s flexible interpretation of the “jurisprudential concept …which require[s] that the defendant’s breach of a duty of care proximately causes plaintiff’s injury,” was flawed. Moreover, that “at some point along the causal chain, the passage of time and the span of distance mandate a cut-off point for liability. ” Id.
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Justice Nix, quoting Justice Andrew’s dissent in Palsgraf v. Long Island R. R. , 248 N. Y. ,352 argued public policy cannot allow the Defendant to be responsible for every unforeseeable proximate cause that consequently results from of the Defendant’s negligent conduct. Justice Nix admittedly quotes Sinn v. Burd, 486 Pa. , that “the defendant did owe a duty of care to the bystander…” However, he also notes “[f]oreseeability enters into the determination of liability in determining whether the emotional injuries sustained by the plaintiff were reasonably foreseeable to the defendant. ” Mazzagati at. 75. Justice Nix asserts that the Court has adopted the Dillon v. Legg, 68 Cal. 2d 728 () parameters in determining whether the claim for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress was reasonably foreseeable. Justice Nix, moreover, quotes that the progression of the law and public policy reveals that: ‘[O]nly a few jurisdictions recognize the right of the plaintiff witness who did not suffer an impact, was not in fear of his own safety, and those jurisdictions require that the severe emotional distress to the plaintiff result from the direct and contemporaneous observance of the accident. Mazzagati at. 276. Nix favors an obligation definition of “duty” as opposed to a “causal sequence of events. ” Mazzagati at. 278. In summation, Justice Nix held that the Defendant’s conduct was not negligent because it did not involve an invasion of the Plaintiff’s legal right, therefore making the claim unactionable. ——————————————– [ 1 ].
In Dillon, it was held that a cause of action is stated when the following criteria are met: (1) Whether the plaintiff was located near the scene of the accident as contrasted with one who was a distance away from it; (2) Whether the shock resulted from a direct emotional impact upon the plaintiff from the sensory and contemporaneous observances of the accident, as contrasted with learning of the accident from others after its occurrence; and (3) Whether plaintiff and the victim were closely related as contrasted with an absence of any relationship or the presence of only a distant relationship.