It is fifty years, almost to a day, since the problem of liability for physical injuries to the plaintiff, caused not by impact but by fright or shock induced by defendant's negligent conduct, made its nearly simultaneous appearance in England and the United States. Both the House of Lords and the Supreme Court of New York disposed of it by denying liability; both stressed the lack of precedent as the basis for decision. Since then, precedents have come in plenty, and while many of the states still deny an action, the majority in which the question has arisen, supported by the unanimous opinion of the law writers, permit the plaintiff to recover. Almost without exception, the plaintiffs have been women, and a large proportion of them pregnant women; the most usual physical injury has been miscarriage, a result possessing not only more emotional appeal but a more convincing objectivity to both court and jury than the obscurer (though no less serious) nervous afflictions which follow in the train of shock.
John W. Richards,
Recovery for Injury Without Impact: The Washington Cases,
13 Wash. L. Rev. & St. B.J.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol13/iss1/2