Friday, July 1, 2011

Court reviews whether a school resource officer exercised reasonable care when displaying graphic pictures in a case involving emotional distress

MARLA H., individually and as next best friend to her daughter MORIAH F. H. v. KNOX COUNTY, ET AL. (Tenn. Ct. App. July 1, 2011)

This is an action for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The mother of a middle school student filed suit against Knox County, the Knox County Board of Education, and the City of Knoxville after her daughter viewed graphic photographs of her dead father during a presentation on the dangers of drunk driving.

The trial court found the City of Knoxville liable for the student's emotional injuries because the school resource officer who distributed the photographs intended to evoke an emotional response. We conclude it was generally foreseeable that providing graphic accident scene photographs to seventh grade students could cause serious or severe emotional harm in a student related to a victim depicted therein. Thus, the school resource officer owed a duty to exercise reasonable care when displaying the photographs to a class that potentially included students related to the victims. The evidence, however, preponderates against the trial court's finding that the school resource officer failed to exercise reasonable care. We reverse the decision of the trial court.

Opinion available at:

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