Rabideau v. City of Racine Case Brief

Summary of Rabideau v. City of Racine (2001) Pg. 540, 627 N.W.2d 795 (Wis. 2001)

Parties: Appellant – Plaintiff – Rabideau

Appellee – Defendant – City of Racine

Court: Supreme Court of Wisconsin, 2001

Facts: Dakota (a dog) was shot and killed by a Racine police officer, where he died from the injury. In a conflict of testimony, Dakota had crossed the street to see, Jed, the police officer’s dog. At the time, Dakota was living with Rabideau who witnessed the incident. Upon being notified of her dog’s death, Rabideau collapsed and received medical treatment. She filed a claim for NIED.

Procedural Posture: TC – granted summary judgment to the City of Racine

MC – affirmed TC’s decision.

Issue: Can a person recovery under bystander NIED after witness the murder of her dog?

Judgment: Affirmed MC’s and TC’s decision on the same grounds.

Holding: The court ruled that as a matter of law dogs are considered property, and an individual is not entitled to NEID damages after witnessing the destruction of his/her property. The court used the Bowen-Kleinke factors to evaluate this decision.

Relevant Rule: Public Policy Considerations for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

1. The victim must have been killed of suffered a serious injury.

2. The plaintiff and victim must be related as spouses, parent-child, grandparent-grandchild, or siblings.

3. The plaintiff must have observed an extraordinary event, namely the incident and injury or the scene soon after the incident with the injured victim at the scene.

Bowen-Kleinke (Public Policy) Factors for fairness in NIED claims

1. Whether the injury is too remote from the negligence

2. Whether the injury is wholly out of proportion to the culpability of the negligent tortfeasor

3. Whether in retrospect it appears too extraordinary that the negligence should have brought about the harm

4. Whether allowance of recovery would place an unreasonable burden on the negligent tortfreasor

5. Whether allowance of recovery would be too likely to open the way to fraudulent claims or

6. Whether allowance of recovery would enter a field that has no sensible or just stopping point.

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