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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

California courts, long leaders in the development of tort law, recently have decided a series of cases in the area of negligent infliction of emotional distress. The California law governing recovery for negligently inflicted emotional distress, as expressed in Dillon v. Legg, Justus v. Atchison, and Molien v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, however, has engendered great confusion in the legal community. This Article analyzes these California Supreme Court decisions and their effect on the decisions of the lower California courts. The Article then examines the policy questions underlying these decisions and suggests that the arbitrariness and complexity of California's emotional distress law stem from the supreme court's attempts to address these questions by incremental adjustments to the Dillon decision. The Article concludes that, viewed from a policy perspective, Dillon, Justs, and Mo/lien emerge as constructive steps in the articulation and resolution of difficult policy questions.

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