Emotional Distress Damages Not Distinct from “Annoyance and Discomfort” Damages in Case Arising from 2007 California Wildfires

November 21, 2017
Kirsten Lee Price & Lawrence S. Zucker II - Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP

Originally published by CDJ on February 16, 2017

In Hensley v. San Diego Gas & Elec. Co., (No. D070259, filed 1/31/17), the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District held that emotional distress damages are available on claims for trespass and nuisance as part of “annoyance and discomfort” damages.

In Hensley, plaintiffs sustained fire damage to their home and property during the 2007 California wildfires. The Hensleys were forced to evacuate as the fires advanced. Although their home was not completely destroyed, it sustained significant damage and they were not able to return home permanently for nearly two months. Thereafter, the Hensleys filed suit against San Diego Gas and Electric Company (“SDG&E”) asserting causes of action for trespass and nuisance, among others. Mr. Hensley, who had suffered from Crohn’s disease since 1991, further claimed that as a result of the stress from the fire, he experienced a substantial increase in his symptoms and his treating physician opined that “beyond a measure of reasonable medical certainty... the stress created by the 2007 San Diego fires caused an increase of [Mr. Hensley’s] disease activity, necessitating frequent visits, numerous therapies, and at least two surgeries since the incident.” SDGE moved, in limine, to exclude evidence of Mr. Hensley’s asserted emotional distress damages arguing he was not legally entitled to recover them under theories of trespass and nuisance. The trial court agreed and excluded all evidence of such damages.

Reprinted courtesy of Kirsten Lee Price, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP and Lawrence S. Zucker, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP
Ms. Price may be contacted at kprice@hbblaw.com
Mr. Zucker may be contacted at lzucker@hbblaw.com


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