Maine Supreme Court Addresses PTSD Claim in General Negligence Case

Negligence law in Maine is designed to compensate the victims of another’s negligence for damages related to physical harm that is caused by such negligence. In addition to physical harm, victims can generally recover damages for psychological and economic damages that are causally related to this physical harm. Negligent acts that cause psychological or emotional harm without physical injury may also form actionable claims, however, Maine law is more limited in this respect. The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine recently ruled that a woman’s negligence claim alleging PTSD as a result of the defendant’s actions had been rightfully rejected by a lower court.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case worked as a heavy equipment operator for a paper company. The plaintiff’s company hired a heavy equipment repair company (the defendant) to fix a crane while the plaintiff was working. While working on the crane, employees of the defendant instructed the plaintiff to assist them in repairing the crane by operating the controls while a repairperson rode on the body of the crane. The plaintiff reluctantly agreed to assist the defendant’s employees. While the plaintiff was assisting in the repairs, one of the men repairing the crane unexpectedly stood up and was crushed between an overhead truss bean and the crane, causing him to fall 30 feet to the floor. The man dies as a result of his injuries.

The plaintiff suffered emotional distress and PTSD as a result of her experience surrounding the fatal accident. She filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that they negligently ordered her to participate in the repair, resulting in the death, and this caused the plaintiff’s psychological injuries. The plaintiff also made a claim that the defendant negligently inflicted emotional distress. In response to the plaintiff’s general negligence claim, the defendant answered that Maine law requires a plaintiff to allege physical harm as a result of negligence. In response to the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, the defendant argued that the plaintiff did not have a sufficient relationship with the deceased for her claim to succeed. The trial court accepted the defendant’s arguments and resolved the case in favor of the defendant.

Plaintiff appealed the ruling to the state high court, where the lower judgment was affirmed. The high court ruled that while PTSD may have physical symptoms, the plaintiff did not allege sufficient facts to argue that PTSD qualified as a physical injury in this case. Concerning the plaintiff’s claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, the high court affirmed that a plaintiff must have a special relationship with a deceased person for such a claim to succeed. Based on the appellate court rulings, the plaintiff will be unable to recover damages from her negligence claims.

What Compensation is Available for Workplace Negligence Claims?

If you or a loved one has been hurt or killed in a workplace accident, there may be several avenues of relief. Many workplace injuries can be processed as workers’ compensation claims, through insurance held by an employer. Injuries caused by the negligence of another person may also form a valid personal injury claim. Anyone injured in an incident on the job should consult with a Maine personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney to discuss their options. The experienced personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates can assist you with a workers’ comp and injury claim at the same time, allowing you to obtain the medical care you need in the aftermath of an accident without sacrificing the full amount of compensation you may be entitled to. If you’ve been hurt, reach out for free legal advice. For a free, no-obligation consultation with a Maine personal injury attorney, call us today at 1-800-804-2004.

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