Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Impact Rule
It's a little known law for most Floridians, but tonight, one woman argues it's not fair that she cannot sue for emotional trauma simply because of where she lives. It's called the Impact Rule, and investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On The Case.
WSVN -- For this mother of two, life will never be the same.
She is so frightened by what happened five years ago that she does not want anyone to know her identity.
Mother: "I thought I was going to die."
In fact, she almost did die. When two strangers approached her and her friend in a department store parking lot.
Mother: "They said, 'Give us your purses, we have a gun to your back.'"
To save their lives, the women did as they were told.
They threw down their purses and hid under a car, neither one suffering any serious injuries, but, for the mother, the emotional scars have still not healed.
Mother: "I don't go out by myself. I just recently started going to work by myself, but I don't go to the store by myself. I don't even do laundry by myself."
And now she has another reason not to show her face.
The robbers from that night are about to be released from jail after serving time behind bars.
Mother: "Now, I'm a scared person. I can't do anything. It's like I have to live in fear everyday."
But as terrified as she is, she's not scared to take a stand.
The mother tried to sue the department store for not properly protecting the parking lot.
She argues that while the gunman never pulled the trigger, her nerves have been permanently shot.
Mother: "Just because I don't get hit, or something like that, it doesn't mean I don't have damage because I do. Emotionally, I'm a nervous wreck."
Carmel Cafiero: "And she could have had a case if she lived almost anywhere else."
Today, Florida is one of the few states with what's called an Impact Rule. That means if you have no physical injuries, you can't sue for emotional distress.
Lisa Sanders: "It's a law that's been on the books since the late 1800s and the purpose of the law was originally to prevent claims that were fraudulent or not valid from proceeding."
Lisa Sanders represented the mother before the case was thrown out by a judge.
She argues the law is outdated because we now have better means to prove if somebody is suffering from emotional distress.
Lisa Sanders: "I think there's enough medical data, scientific data, what have you, to clearly establish beyond any kind of doubt that, yes, you can suffer purely emotional harm."
The law is so flimsy the woman who was with the mother that night sued the department store and received a settlement because her leg got bruised during the hold up.
Attorney Hinda Klein is currently arguing a different Impact Rule case in the state Supreme Court.
She, however, believes while it's not the perfect system, it is a necessary system.
Hinda Klein: "It's obviously a subjective thing that's difficult for a judge or a jury or an attorney to quantify or to compensate for."
Compensation this mother will never see. She says she's scared not only for her life but also for the safety of others.
And to protect her family, she is moving away from Florida permanently.
Mother: "The only thing I really wanted was for them to be more cautious, for them to understand that their customers should come first."
If You Have A Story For Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE