Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

Only Family Members Can Recover For Negligent Infliction Of Emotional Distress

Negligent Infliction Of Emotional Distress Plaintiff Kellie Grotts was injured and her fiancé was killed in a motor vehicle accident.  Kellie wanted to recover damages for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED).  The trial court said that as a matter of law, Kellie was not “closely related” and dismissed that cause of action.  She appealed.

In Grotts v. Zahner, 115 Nev. 339, 989 P.2d 415 (1999) the Nevada Supreme Court reaffirmed Nevada’s law on NIED.  The Court cited the case of State v. Eaton, 101 Nev. 705, 710 P.2d 1370 (1985).  The Nevada Law Blog has treated that case HERE.  The Court reiterated that there are three elements to a NIED claim.

the witness-plaintiff must prove that he or she (1) was located near the scene; (2) was emotionally injured by the contemporaneous sensory observance of the accident; and (3) was closely related to the victim. Eaton, 101 Nev. at 716, 710 P.2d at 1377-78.


In the case of State ex rel. DOT v. Hill, 114 Nev. 810, 963 P.2d 480 (1998) in a plurality decision, the court said that the question of whether an individual is closely enough related to the injured party to qualify for recovery would always be a fact question.

In Grotts, the Court reconsidered that issue.  The Court decided:

We now conclude, contrary to the plurality holding in Hill, that standing issues concerning “closeness of relationship” between a victim and a bystander should, as a general proposition, be determined based upon family membership, either by blood or marriage. Immediate family members of the victim qualify for standing to bring NIED claims as a matter of law.

115 Nev. at 341, 989 P.2d at 416.

The court recognized that there is a small group of people who are family members but who are not members of the “immediate family”.  The court carved out an exception for that small group of people which did not apply to Ms. Grotts.  Under that limited circumstance, the issue of closeness would become a question for the finder of fact.

If you have further questions about NIED claims in Nevada, please contact Mike Mills at Bauman Loewe Witt & Maxwell.  He can be reached at 702.240.6060×114.  You can also send him an email at

About Michael Mills

Mr. Mills practices in the area of civil litigation and appeals, with particular experience in matters involving trucking liability, insurance defense, insurance coverage, premises liability, products liability and defense of personal injury. Mr. Mills is a member of the Trucking Insurance Defense Association, the Defense Research Institute Trucking Committee and the Nevada Motor Transport Association. Mr. Mills is licensed to practice before the Nevada Supreme Court and the Utah Supreme Court. He is also licensed to appear before the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Nevada and Utah, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Mills has created 3 Blogs for the benefit of the insurance industry. He serves as editor and publisher of the Nevada Insurance Law Blog, the Nevada Coverage and Bad Faith Blog and the Nevada Trucking Law Blog.

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