Physicians Can Be Sued for Emotional Distress Alone, Rules Pa. Supreme Court

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that physicians can be sued for emotional distress — even if physical negligence was not involved, according to a Legal Newsline report.

The ruling stems from a suit filed by a female patient who underwent a pelvic ultrasound. During the procedure, the physician assured the woman her unborn baby was normal and healthy and said the results of the exam did not reveal any abnormalities.

When the woman gave birth on July 3, 2003, her son had several physical deformities — he did not have arms below his elbows or legs below his knee joints; he had an accessory tongue; and he also had an umbilical hernia, among other conditions. The woman, given the reassurance she received from her physician, said she experienced shock, grief, rage, nausea, hysteria, nervousness, sleeplessness and a variety of other emotional and mental distress.  

She filed suit against her physician in June 2005, claiming negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It landed in state Supreme Court, where judges did not provide a full opinion regarding its decision, but upheld the Superior Court ruling that said "the elements of negligence and foreseeability to have been adequately pled."

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