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What Are Emotional Distress Damages? – Part 1

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A friend of mine recently told me that he had read about a jury awarding emotional distress damages in favor of a husband and wife whose home was improperly wired by an electrical contractor and, as a result, burned down after they got out with only the clothes on their back. He was perplexed that the jury awarded these damages in addition to the cost of rebuilding the home, the value of the contents and the family’s loss of their use of the home while it was being rebuilt. Emotional distress damages, I explained to him, are no different than damages for physical pain and suffering that a person may recover in an automobile negligence lawsuit. In Alabama, there is no fixed monetary standard and the amount is left to the sound judgment and discretion of the jury. While the other damages awarded by the jury may turn out to be a tidy sum, they do not even begin to compensate the family for the grief and inconvenience caused by the electrician’s negligence. These damages cannot be presumed, however, and must be proved by direct evidence. In future installments, I will discuss what types of cases these damages are available in and how the Alabama Supreme Court has determined the appropriateness of an emotional distress award.