California law: Court Rejects Claims by Plaintiff: Davis

David A. Szwak

California law: Court Rejects Claims by Plaintiff: Davis

Postby David A. Szwak » Sat Mar 18, 2006 11:45 am

2. Discussion
a. Third Claim for Relief: Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
Defendant moves to dismiss the Third Claim for Relief which pleads negligent infliction of emotional distress. MBNA contends that the alleged negligent conduct in resolving the dispute as to Plaintiff's credit account does not give rise to a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Court agrees. Both Delaware and California narrowly limit a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress. [FN2] "It is settled law in Delaware that, in a negligence action, for a claim of mental anguish to lie, an essential ingredient is present and demonstrable physical injury to the plaintiff." Garrison v. Medical Center of Delaware Inc., 581 A.2d 288, 293 (Del.1988). Similarly, California generally authorizes emotional distress damages only in cases of physical injury. See Branch v. Homefed Bank, 6 Cal.App.4th 793, 800, 8 Cal.Rptr.2d 182 (1992). California also permits recovery for emotional distress in certain specialized cases such as mishandling of remains, false diagnosis of potentially fatal disease, witnessing the injury of close relative, or negligence involving quasi-fiduciary duties in the cases of bad faith denial of insurance coverage. See id. (citations omitted).


FN2. As discussed further below, there is a dispute as to whether Delaware or California law governs disputes arising from the Agreement. The Court finds it appropriate to analyze the amended complaint under both states' laws.


*4 Plaintiff has alleged no physical injury which supports a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress under Delaware or California law. Additionally, he has presented no authority that his claim falls within the narrow cases allowing recovery for emotional distress. Plaintiff generally cites to authority governing intentional infliction of emotional distress. See Murphy v. Allstate Ins. Co., 83 Cal.App.3d 38, 147 Cal.Rptr. 565 (1978); Cervantes v. J.C. Penny Co., 24 Cal.3d 579, 593-94, 156 Cal.Rptr. 198, 595 P.2d 975 (1979). Those cases are inapposite. Plaintiff also relies upon Crisi v. Security Ins. Co., 66 Cal.2d 425, 58 Cal.Rptr.2d 13, 426 P.2d 173 (1967), for the proposition that a plaintiff may recover for mental distress even if there is no physical injury. However, Crisi concerned whether emotional distress damages could be recovered under a claim of bad faith denial of insurance coverage. This issue is separate from whether a plaintiff may state a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress based upon the facts presented. See Soto v. Royal Globe Ins. Co., 184 Cal.App.3d 420, 434, 229 Cal.Rptr. 192 (1986). [FN3] Plaintiff has presented no other authority indicating that alleged negligence in resolving credit disputes or reporting credit information supports a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Absent clear authority to the contrary, this Court does not find that a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress may lie based upon the facts as alleged by Plaintiff.


FN3. The Court recognizes that at least one California appellate court has permitted the recovery of emotional distress damages in addition to financial damages for a violation of California's Credit Card Act. See Young v. Bank of America Nat'l Trust & Savs. Ass'n, 141 Cal.App.3d 108,
115, 190 Cal.Rptr. 122 (1983). However, whether the remedies for a violation of California's Credit Card Act include emotional distress damages is a legally and analytically separate question from whether a plaintiff may allege a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Consequently, the Court does not find that Young compels denying Defendant's motion.


Plaintiff also contends that Congress intended that claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress could be brought in the present situation, noting that under 15 U.S.C. section 1681h(e), an account holder may recover under a common-law theory of negligence in certain situations. See Dornhecker v. Ameritech Corp., 99 F.Supp.2d 918, 931 (N.D.Ill.2000); Whitesides v. Equifax Credit Information Servs., Inc., 125 F.Supp.2d 807, 811 (W.D.La.2000). However, the fact that Federal law does not prohibit state law negligence claims under certain circumstances is not relevant to whether Plaintiff has stated a prima facie claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress in the first instance. Because Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress under either Delaware or California law, the Court need not determine whether the claim fits within the exception under section 1681h(e). Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Third Claim for Relief. Moreover, because neither Delaware or California law provides for recovery of emotional distress damages in the case of negligent conduct in resolving credit disputes or reporting credit information, amendment would be futile.

Davis v. Maryland Bank
Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2002 WL 32713429
N.D.Cal.,2002.
Jun 19, 2002

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