Hansen v. Mountain Fuel Supply Co – Case Brief Summary (Utah)

In Hansen v. Mountain Fuel Supply Co., 858 P.2d 970, 975 (Utah 1993), the Supreme Court of Utah concluded that a plaintiff can recover for emotional distress, absent physical injury, resulting from a defendant's negligence, provided that the emotional distress is so severe that "a reasonable person, normally constituted, would be unable to adequately cope with the resulting mental stress." Id.

Further, in those cases "which deal with emotional distress resulting from fear of developing a disease in the future, the fact finder should also consider the likelihood that the disease will actually occur in determining the reasonableness of the fear," as well as the "duration and nature of the exposure to the toxic substance" in order to ensure that courts receive only those cases involving serious emotional distress. Id.

The court held that the plaintiffs in that case failed to meet these requirements as a matter of law, as they alleged mere "transitory anxiety and sleeplessness," the types of symptoms and stresses that "do not amount to the type of emotional distress with which a reasonable person, normally constituted, would be unable to cope." Id.