467 So.2d 277 (Fla. 1985), 63739, Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. McCarson

Docket Nº:63739.
Citation:467 So.2d 277, 10 Fla. L. Weekly 154
Opinion Judge:Author: Ehrlich
Party Name:METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Petitioner, v. Ernest D. McCARSON, Sr., etc., et al., Respondents.
Attorney:Arthur J. England, Jr. of Fine, Jacobson, Block, England, Klein, Colan and Simon, Miami, Florida; Donald J. Sasser and William H. Pruitt, West Palm Beach, Florida; and John G. Pare', Tampa, Florida, for Petitioner.
Case Date:March 07, 1985
Court:Supreme Court of Florida
 
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Page 277

467 So.2d 277 (Fla. 1985)

10 Fla. L. Weekly 154

METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Petitioner,

v.

Ernest D. McCARSON, Sr., etc., et al., Respondents.

No. 63739.

Supreme Court of Florida.

March 7, 1985

Rehearing Denied May 6, 1985.

Arthur J. England, Jr. of Fine, Jacobson, Block, England, Klein, Colan & Simon, Miami, Donald J. Sasser and William H. Pruitt, West Palm Beach, and John G. Pare, Tampa, for petitioner.

Samuel D. Phillips, M. Lee Thompson and Larry Klein, West Palm Beach, for respondents.

EHRLICH, Justice.

This cause is before us because the decision of the district court in Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. McCarson, 429 So.2d 1287 (Fla. 4th DCA 1983), directly and expressly

Page 278

conflicts with a decision of another district court, Gmuer v. Garner, 426 So.2d 972 (Fla. 2d DCA 1982). We have jurisdiction, article V, section 3(b)(3), Florida Constitution, and we approve in part and quash in part the decision of the Fourth District.

McCarson was issued a group insurance policy by Metropolitan Life which covered employees of his paint and body shop including his wife. The next year, Mrs. McCarson became incapacitated with Alzheimer's disease. Metropolitan stopped payment of benefits for her, claiming that the condition had been preexisting and that the failure to disclose it voided her coverage. McCarson brought suit; Metropolitan was found to be in breach of contract and ordered to provide coverage pursuant to the contract. Later it became necessary for Mrs. McCarson to have round-the-clock nursing, for which Metropolitan was liable under the terms of its contract until the policy lapsed or Mrs. McCarson became eligible for Medicare. After requesting proof of ineligibility for Medicare, and receiving no response, Metropolitan eventually discontinued payments and the round-the-clock nursing ceased. McCarson brought suit to enforce the policy provisions, but in the meantime, Mrs. McCarson was removed from her home and placed in a total care nursing facility where her condition deteriorated remarkably. A few months later she died of a heart attack. Medical testimony indicated that the stress of her new surroundings probably brought about her demise. McCarson amended his original complaint and, as Lucille's personal representative, added a count for wrongful death on the theory that Metropolitan's failure to fulfill the terms of the contract had been a willfull infliction of emotional distress upon Mrs. McCarson which had thereby caused her death. A jury awarded McCarson medical costs, $200,000 for the emotional distress suffered by Mrs. McCarson, and $250,000 for her wrongful death. The trial court struck the award for Mrs. McCarson's emotional distress but upheld the remainder of the award. Metropolitan appealed but the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the award, finding a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress sufficient to support the cause of action for wrongful death.

We approve the Fourth District's decision insofar as it states that Florida recognizes the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. We have skirted that issue in previous cases, finding it not to be directly before the Court. See e.g., LaPorte v. Associated Independents, Inc., 163 So.2d 267 (Fla.1964); Slocum v. Food Fair Stores, 100 So.2d 396 (Fla.1958); Kirksey v. Jernigan, 45 So.2d 188 (Fla.1950). The thorough discussion and analysis of the Fourth...

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