NOTE: AN ATTORNEY'S LIABILITY FOR THE NEGLIGENT INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS. Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1990 Fordham Law Review
Fordham Law Review

NOTE: AN ATTORNEY'S LIABILITY FOR THE NEGLIGENT INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS.

May, 1990

58 Fordham L. Rev. 1309

Author

Joseph J. Kelleher

Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

As a result of a dramatic growth in the number of legal malpractice suits, 1 there increasingly has arisen the question of whether an attorney should be liable for the negligent infliction of emotional distress. 2 Most decisions have limited recovery to cases in which the client suffered a physical injury or the attorney acted egregiously. 3 Such requirements ensure the claim's genuineness, conserve judicial resources, and protect the attorney from unfair liability. 4

Some recent decisions, however, have permitted plaintiffs to recover for emotional distress without regard to the degree of the attorney's negligence. 5 These opinions examine the client interest that the attorney represented. 6 This approach distinguishes the majority rule by differentiating between the client's personal and pecuniary interests. 7 This view suggests that personal interests are entitled to greater protection. 8 Where a personal interest is injured, emotional harm is more likely and the risk of fraudulent claims limited. 9 When the attorney's negligence harms a personal interest, therefore, the courts that adopt this approach permit the client to recover for emotional distress. 10

This Note supports the distinction between pecuniary and personal injuries. It argues that, where breach of duty and causation can be established, a negligent injury to a personal interest justifies the imposition of liability. Part I discusses the background of emotional distress recovery. Part II reviews the standards for liability in legal malpractice. Part III introduces the various methods used to appraise emotional distress ...
 
 
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