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Illinois Supreme Court Upholds Limit On Emotional Distress Claims

the Illinois Supreme Court bench in the court's main building in Springfield
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois

The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld a barrier to suing for "negligent infliction of emotional distress."

It’s called the “impact rule.” The idea is simple: in order to claim someone’s negligence caused you distress, you have to be “impacted.” Literally have something or someone make physical contact with you.

The case was brought by a Northbrook woman whose home was in foreclosure. She was startled when a contractor hired by Chase Home Finance entered what he thought was an abandoned home.

Startled, but not “impacted."

Earlier this year, attorney Gerard Fosco told members of the Supreme that if they did not uphold the impact rule, “We’re talking about opening the floodgates for litigation regarding merely being offended or placed in some level of fear."

The justices unanimously ruled against the homeowner, finding that physical injury or impact must be present to sue for emotional distress caused by someone else's negligence.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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