Reexamining Boyles: An Argument for Exempting Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims Against Common Carriers

The 1993 Texas Supreme Court’s decision in Boyles v. Kerr held that there is no cause of action in Texas for negligent infliction of emotional distress in the absence of physical injury. However, the Court cautiously worded its opinion to allow exceptions in cases when “certain [special] relationships may give rise to a duty which, if breached, would support an emotional distress award.” In his Texas Lawyer article, Managing Partner Mike Slack defends why the Boyles special relationship rationale should be applied to emotional distress claims against common carriers.

Over the years, the Boyles decision has precluded Texas citizens from emotional distress claims in several cases, including the April 2018 Southwest Airlines’ incident that resulted in one fatality and left numerous passengers emotionally traumatized. Slack believes the paying passengers should have the liberty to assert emotional distress even in the absence of physical injuries and urges the Texas high courts to reexamine the Boyles’ standard.

“By accepting compensation from passengers in return for their transportation, common carriers are entrusted with the heightened duty of ensuring safe transport,” wrote Slack. “Common carriers not only have a duty to aid and protect their passengers from the risks of harm that arise in the course of that relationship, but they are in a far better position to bear the risk of loss rather than imposing an uncompensated loss on passengers by invoking Boyles when confronted with an emotional distress claim.”

Read the full article here