, Derry, New Hampshire


July 25, 2013

About the Law: Courts require 'outrage' for damages

We hired a roofer for our older home. When they used a torch to remove old roofing material, they set our home on fire. They tried to extinguish the fire before the fire department got there and broke pipes in the attempt.

We can’t cook or use the washer. We can sleep in our bedrooms and eat out. The contractor’s insurance company will pay property damage. Their form asks for “personal damages”. Can we claim mental anguish? We have been living like this for six weeks.

Clear negligence by a gas utility caused an explosion and fire at a Malden, Mass., home. Family members watched from across the street. Their emotional distress case was at first rejected in the courts, but then went up on appeal.

Medical affidavits documented physical symptoms including tension headaches, spinal muscle tenderness, diarrhea and heart palpitation. Why is this important?

Emotional distress claims require physical injuries to support allegations of mental anguish. In Sullivan v. Boston Gas Company, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that the above physical symptoms supported by medical documentation were enough evidence to support an emotional distress claim.

The problem is that courts have said if they allowed injury cases for mental anguish or emotional distress it would “open the floodgates” to litigation. So, physical manifestations or something called “outrage” must support mental anguish claims.

“Outrage” is something beyond the gas company blowing up a house. My guess is it wouldn’t apply to the negligence in burning the top of your home.

I’ve applied for a job with a major national company and was given an application. They said to return it with copies of my driver’s license or government ID and a copy of my Social Security card. Is this required?

Surprisingly, the answer to this question is not as simple as one would hope. The bottom line is that, yes, the prospective employer’s request for copies of a driver’s license and Social Security card is reasonable.

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