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CA: Legal Malpractice: No Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Damages

Camenisch v. Superior Court, 44 Cal. App. 4th 1689, 52 Cal. Rptr. 2d 450 (1996)

Underlying Action: CA: Torts

Student Contributor: Louis Dell

Facts: The plaintiff hired Camenisch to prepare trust and estate documents. He informed defendant that he did not want the proceeds of his life insurance tryst to become a taxable part of his estate. The attorney prepared a trust to meet the plaintiffs requirements. Sometime later the plaintiff informed defendant that he believed the trust was not prepared correctly. Defendant made some changes to the trust at that time. Plaintiff was required to pay taxes on the trust. Plaintiff then brought a suit for malpractice and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff alleged that because he had to pay taxes he suffered severe emotional distress and anxiety.

Issue: Is the tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress applicable in a case for professional malpractice?

Ruling: No, in a case for legal malpractice negligent infliction of emotional distress is not normally available. In cases where the malpractice has led to conviction and imprisonment, negligent infliction of emotional distress has been allowed.

Lesson: An attorney cannot be held liable for negligent infliction of emotional distress when the only damage to the defendant is economic. This is true whether the damages occurred in litigation or in another context.  


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Posted in: California, Damages