Robb v. The Pennsylvania Railroad Co. Case Brief

Summary of Robb v. The Pennsylvania Railroad Co. (1965) Pg. 529, 210 A.2d 709 (Del. 1965)

Parties: Appellant – Plaintiff – Robb

Appellee – Defendant – Pennsylvania RR

Court: Court of Appeals – Delaware, 1965

Facts: Robb was driving on her private road leading to her house which intersected with a railroad track. As she was crossing the track, her car stalled and was stuck in a 1ft ditch, which was negligently there by the Defendant. Robb tried to move the car, and it was when a train started down the track. In the nick of time, Robb jumped out of the car, and the train collided with the car destroying it, but Robb sustained no injury. Out of mere fright, Robb went into shock and in the aftermath, suffered physical injuries due to the fright and nervous shock.

Procedural Posture: TC – granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Robb suffered no physical impact from the accident and was barred recovery for damages for emotional distress.

Issue: Can a plaintiff recovery for physical injuries suffered from emotional distress due to a negligent defendant’s actions despite the fact the plaintiff suffered no bodily impact from the negligence?

Judgment: Reversed TC’s decision and remanded back to TC for further proceedings allowing Robb to prove her case to seek relief.

Holding: The court threw out the Impact Test and adopted the Danger Test, stating that as long as the plaintiff was in the zone of danger where the negligence occurred, that emotional distress minus physical impact could be argued to the proximate result of a defendant’s negligence.

Relevant Rule: Reasons for Impact Rule

1. Fright alone does not give rise to a cause of action.

2. Physical consequences of fright are too remote and that the causal connection is unprovable.

3. Public policy and expediency demand that there be no recovery for the physical consequences of fright in the absence of physical injury. It is done to prevent fraudulent claims from coming to court

Zone of Danger Rule

Where negligence proximately caused fright, in one within the immediate area of physical danger from that negligence, which in turn produced physical consequences such as would be elements of damage if a bodily injury had been suffered; the injured party is entitled to recover under an application of the prevailing principles of law as to negligence and proximate causation.

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