In Willis v. Gami Golden Glades, LLC, No. SC04-1929, 2007 WL 3024039 (Fla. Oct. 18, 2007), the intermediate appellate court certified questions to the Florida Supreme Court that invited reconsideration of the state’s “impact rule.” Under that rule, Florida treats emotional distress claims differently depending on whether the plaintiff has suffered a physical impact from an external force.
If there was an impact, Florida permits recovery for emotional distress not only from the impact itself but also for distress stemming from the incident during which the impact occurred. Without an impact, a plaintiff can only recover for mental distress manifested by the physical injury and the plaintiff must have been directly involved in the traumatizing event.
Although the certified questions raised important questions about the application of the impact rule, and invited reconsideration of the rule itself, the majority in Willis concluded that the facts of the case -- involving an assault and battery in a parking lot that plaintiff used at defendant’s direction -- so clearly satisfied the rule that none of the other issues argued by the parties needed to be addressed. However, the concurring and dissenting opinions addressed those issues and the underlying policy questions at length.