Monday, February 15, 2010

Court of Appeals Upholds Catsouras’ Claim for Damages Against CHP

Long after 18-year-old Nikki Catsouras was killed in a car accident in 2006; her family continues to be haunted by her death.

The California Highway Patrol officers who responded to the accident callously took pictures of the teenager’s mangled remains, pictures which later on spread online to more than a hundred sites and viciously circulated via e-mail all throughout town.

Nikki’s were posted in Myspace account where cruel comments claimed she deserved her gruesome death. Pictures of her, some with her nearly decapitated head featured also made its way to sadistic blogs devoted to pornography and death.

Incensed, the family filed a civil lawsuit against the CHP for negligence, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional harm.

Their case was dismissed by Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven L. Perk. The judge ruled that the agency and its employees had no legal duty to protect the privacy of the surviving Catsouras family.

However, their appeal after almost 2 years was granted by a California appeals court. The court found that the CHP officers violated the family's right to privacy and is guilty of causing emotional distress to the Catsouras family.

The Catsouras family is pursuing damages worth $20 million against the CHP.

Under the law, damages are usually paid to compensate the claimant for loss, injury, or harm suffered because of another party’s breach of duty or negligence.

A claim for damages can also be made under the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) tort. While emotional distress is hard to quantify, the victim’s pain and suffering because of a defendant’s reckless or intentional act can be the basis of damages.

There are usually four elements to an IIED claim:
• The defendant acted intentionally or recklessly
• Such conduct was extreme and outrageous
• The said act is the cause of the distress
• Plaintiff suffers severe emotional distress as a result of said conduct
A civil litigation attorney or a personal injury attorney would know best how to handle and represent such claims.