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DOUGLAS BROOKS v. ANN WIDMANN DECKER AND SUE CAROL DECKER (10/31/86)

decided: October 31, 1986.

DOUGLAS BROOKS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR CHRISTOPHER D. BROOKS, APPELLANTS,
v.
ANN WIDMANN DECKER AND SUE CAROL DECKER, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court entered at No. 107 Harrisburg, 1984, dated June 28, 1985, affirming the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County entered at No. 82-1726, dated January 24, 1984. Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Flaherty, J., joins in this opinion and calls attention to his concurring opinion in Mazzagatti v. Everingham, Author: Nix

[ 512 Pa. Page 367]

Opinion

This appeal presents an issue identical to that recently addressed by this court in Mazzagatti v. Everingham, 512 Pa. 266, 516 A.2d 672 (1986), wherein we held that a plaintiff who does not experience a contemporaneous observance of tortious injury to a close relative does not state a cause of action for the negligent infliction of emotional distress under the parameters enunciated in Sinn v. Burd, 486 Pa. 146, 404 A.2d 672 (1979).

I.

The facts of the instant case are similar to those of Mazzagatti, supra, in that the plaintiff-parent did not witness the accident itself, but arrived at the accident scene a few minutes afterwards. In the early afternoon of July 22, 1980, as appellant, Douglas Brooks, drove to his home in Park Forest Village, an ambulance passed him and turned onto the street where he lived. The ambulance stopped shortly thereafter where a crowd of people had gathered. Appellant, who followed the ambulance, noticed a bicycle that belonged to his son, Christopher, on the ground. As appellant exited his vehicle to investigate, he discovered that Christopher had been the victim of an automobile accident. Christopher had been riding his bicycle when he was struck by a vehicle owned by appellee Sue Decker and operated by appellee Ann Decker. Appellant accompanied his son to the hospital in an ambulance. Christopher was comatose for ten days following the accident, and has suffered permanent severe brain damage as a result of the accident.

Appellant brought a claim for emotional distress alleging in Count III*fn1 of his complaint:

25. As a result of the injuries to his son and coming upon the scene of the accident, Douglas Brooks was

[ 512 Pa. Page 368]

    terrified and sustained feelings of helplessness, anger and frustration, and as a result has gone through a grieving or mourning process.

26. Currently he suffers mild to moderate levels of anxiety and depression and feelings of helplessness. R. at 8a.

Appellees filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to Count III on the grounds that:

(a) it fails to allege that Plaintiff Douglas Brooks witnessed his son's accident;

(b) it fails to allege that Plaintiff Douglas Brooks witnessed his son's injuries;

(c) it alleges that Plaintiff Douglas Brooks did not witness the accident but only came on the ...


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