The Second Department, over an extensive two-justice dissent, determined the grandmother of a two-year-old child who witnessed the child’s death was not a member of the child’s “immediate family” and therefore could not recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress, despite the grandmother’s being in the zone of danger when the child was struck by falling pieces of a building-facade. The motion to amend the complaint to add the negligent infliction of emotional distress cause of action should not have been granted:
… [I]n Trombetta v Conkling (82 NY2d 549, 551), the Court of Appeals held that a niece could not recover damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress for witnessing the death of her aunt, despite the fact that the niece’s mother had died when the niece was 11 years old, and the aunt had allegedly been the maternal figure in the niece’s life. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was 37 years old and her aunt was 59 years old (see id. at 551). In rendering its determination, the Court of Appeals stated: “On firm public policy grounds, we are persuaded that we should not expand the cause of action for emotional injuries to all bystanders who may be able to demonstrate a blood relationship coupled with significant emotional attachment or the equivalent of an intimate, immediate familial bond” (id. at 553).
In Jun Chi Guan v Tuscan Dairy Farms (24 AD3d 725), this Court held that the relationship of grandparent and grandchild does not constitute “immediate family” so as to permit recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress. In Jun Chi Guan, the plaintiff grandmother was pushing her infant grandson in a stroller, when a truck owned and operated by the defendants struck the stroller, killing the infant (see id. at 725). This Court rejected the grandmother’s argument that she should be considered immediate family because she was the family member who spent the most time with the infant during his waking hours (see id. at 726). Further, this Court held that “it is not appropriate for this Court to expand the class [of persons constituting immediate family] absent further direction from the Court of Appeals or the New York State Legislature” (id.). Greene v Esplanade Venture Partnership, 2019 NY Slip Op 03771, Second Dept 5-15-19