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32 William Mitchell Law Review 1335 (2006)


The rules governing negligent infliction of emotional distress claims differ significantly from state to state. The predominant rule is the bystander recovery rule, which permits recovery by persons who are not physically threatened by the defendant’s negligent conduct but who suffer emotional distress from witnessing injury to a third person. In bystander recovery jurisdictions, the required degree of proximity of the plaintiff to the accident scene, how the plaintiff hears about the accident, the plaintiff’s relationship to the person actually injured in the accident, and the proof required to establish severe emotional distress vary, sometimes significantly, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The purpose of this Article is to review the response of Engler v. Illinois Farmers Insurance Co. to the issue of whether a plaintiff in the zone of danger should be entitled to recover damages for emotional distress arising from fear or anxiety for the safety of a third person, primarily against the backdrop of the Minnesota experience with negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. Part II of this Article sets out the primary Minnesota emotional distress cases in order to provide a context for the discussion of Engler in Part III. Part IV looks at the mechanics of applying Engler in the future. Part V is the conclusion.

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