Thursday, August 1, 2013

Iowa Supreme Court recognizes claim for emotional distress caused by attorney's malpractice

I have never understood why it is so difficult for courts to recognize claims for emotional distress in cases where the plaintiff does not suffer physical injuries. Is it really that difficult to believe that someone can suffer emotional distress due to someone's conduct absent a physical injury?   Assume an attorney's malpractice causes a client to lose his house, or custody of his children or to be separated from his children for years.  Is it really that difficult to believe that the attorney's negligence can cause emotional distress?

I don't think so.  As long as we recognize that emotional distress is a distinct type of injury that can result from negligent conduct, it is difficult to argue that a plaintiff should not have the right to bring a claim as long as he or she can support the elements of the cause of action.

Following this type of reasoning, the Iowa Supreme Court recently held that a couple from Ecuador may sue their attorney for emotional distress because his advice caused them to be separated from their children and grandchildren for a decade.  It’s the first time the state’s high court has allowed an attorney to be sued for emotional distress and punitive damages in a malpractice case.  Go here for more on the story.