Vanoni v. Western Airlines

Citation56 Cal.Rptr. 115,247 Cal.App.2d 793
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Decision Date18 January 1967
PartiesRichard VANONI, Vivian Vanoni, Carl Havercamp, Terry Havercamp, Arthur Zlef and Dorriane Zief, Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. WESTERN AIRLINES, a corporation, Defendant and Respondent. Civ. 23298.

James D. Lia. San Francisco, for appellants.

Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon, San Francisco, for respondent.


Plaintiffs appeal from a judgment of dismissal entered pursuant to an order sustaining defendant's general demurrer without leave to amend.

Plaintiffs filed a complaint for damages against Western Airlines and several 'Does' alleging, Inter alia, that on October 18, 1964, plaintiffs were paying passengers on a certain flight departing from Las Vegas, Nevada, with the destination of said flight being Los Angeles, California. The complaint continues 'that plaintiffs, and each of them, purchased tickets in San Francisco, California, and at said place contracted with defendants, and each of them, for a round-trip flight to Las Vegas, Nevada, and return to the City and County of San Francisco, State of California.

'That on or about the 18th day of October, 1964, while plaintiffs * * * were on the return flight to San Francisco, California, from Las Vegas, Nevada, and while on that part of the flight that was going to Los Angeles, California, approximately 45 minutes flight time outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, defendants * * * so carelessly and negligently maintained, owned, operated and controlled the aforesaid aircraft so as to lead plaintiffs * * * to believe that said aircraft was in mechanical trouble, and further led plaintiffs * * * to believe that said aircraft was going to crash; that in fact the above careless and negligent actions and words of defendants * * * were false although believed to be true and acted upon by plaintiffs, * * *.'

Then comes the language which is the subject of this appeal--'That as a result of the carelessness and negligence of defendants, and each of them as aforesaid, plaintiff * * * was caused great grievous mental suffering, anguish and anxiety and Suffered severe shock to his nerves and nervous system and suffered other injuries, the exact nature and extent of which are unknown * * * and plaintiff prays leave to amend and insert same herein when fully ascertained.' (Emphasis added.)

Each plaintiff prayed for general damages in the sum of $50,000 and for special damages in an amount not yet fully ascertained.

Defendant demurred generally to the complaint on the grounds that it did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action. The matter came on for hearing and an order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend was entered. A judgment of dismissal was entered pursuant to this order and it is from this judgment that plaintiffs appeal.

Plaintiffs have evidently elected to stand or fall upon the complaint as framed and have raised no issue pertaining to abuse of discretion in sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend. Accordingly the only issue before us is whether the complaint states a cause of action.

We need not elaborately recount the rules regarding the interpretation of pleadings. California is committed to the rule of liberal construction of pleadings, with a view to substantial justice between the parties. (Code Civ.Proc., § 452; Simons v. County of Kern (1965) 234 Cal.App.2d 362, 367, 44 Cal.Rptr. 338; Chavez v. Sargent (1959) 52 Cal.2d 162, 339 P.2d 801; and see 2 Witkin, Cal. Procedure, Pleading, § 209, pp. 1187--1189.) While it is true that plaintiff will be presumed to have stated his case as favorable as the facts permit (Agnew v. Parks (1959) 172 Cal.App.2d 756, 343 P.2d 118) we must also consider that, as against a general demurrer, plaintiff need only to plead facts showing that he is entitled to some relief. (Augustine v. Trucco (1954) 124 Cal.App.2d 229, 236, 268 P.2d 780; Weltman v. Kaye (1959) 167 Cal.App.2d 607, 614, 334 P.2d 917.)

California is said to be a 'no impact' jurisdiction. (Amaya v. Home Ice, Fuel & Supply Co. (1963) 59 Cal.2d 295, 299, 29 Cal.Rptr. 33, 379 P.2d 513; and see Rest.2d Torts, §§ 436, 436A; Prosser, Torts, § 55 (3d Ed. 1964); Annot, 64 A.L.R.2d 100; 2 Witkin, Summary of Cal.Law, Torts, §§ 236-238.) The lack of impact here is therefore not fatal to plaintiffs' cause of action. 1

It seems to be the law that there can be no recovery for emotional distress or mental suffering unaccompanied by physical harm arising from acts which are solely negligent in nature. (Espinosa v. Beverly Hospital (1952) 114 Cal.App.2d 232, 249 P.2d 843; Gautier v. General Telephone Co. (1965) 234 Cal.App.2d 302, 307, 44 Cal.Rptr. 404; and see Rest.2d Torts, § 436A.) But here plaintiffs allege that they 'suffered severe shock to (their) nerves and nervous system(s).' They contend that such is a physical injury--something more than emotional or mental suffering.

In Sloane v. Southern Cal. Ry. Co. (1896) 111 Cal. 668, 680, 44 P. 320, 322, 32 L.R.A. 193, the court, in discussing a similar question, stated:

'The real question presented by the objections and exception of the appellant is whether the subsequent nervous disturbance of the plaintiff was a suffering of the body or of the mind. The interdependence of the mind and body is in many respects so close that it is impossible to distinguish their respective influence upon each other. It must be conceded that a nervous shock or paroxysm, or a disturbance of the nervous system, is distinct from mental anguish, and falls within the physiological, rather than the psychological, branch of the human organism. It is a matter of general knowledge that an attack of sudden fright, or an exposure to imminent peril, has produced in individuals a complete change in their nervous system, and rendered one who was physically strong and vigorous, weak and timid. Such a result must be regarded as an injury to the body rather than to the mind, even...

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25 cases
  • Jarchow v. Transamerica Title Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • June 5, 1975
    ...caused emotional distress is not compensable unless accompanied by physical injury. In a third opinion, Vanoni v. Western Airlines, 247 Cal.App.2d 793, 56 Cal.Rptr. 115, the court appeared to endorse the physical injury portion of the common law requirement, but noted that California was no......
  • Shepard v. Superior Court
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • December 19, 1977
    ...for negligent infliction of emotional harm (Amaya v. Home Ice, Fuel & Supply Co., supra, 59 Cal.2d 295; Vanoni v. Western Airlines (1967) 247 Cal.App.2d 793, 56 Cal.Rptr. 115; Gautier v. General Telephone Co. (1965) 234 Cal.App.2d 302, 44 Cal.Rptr. 404; Espinosa v. Beverly Hospital (1952) 1......
  • Aim Insurance Co. v. Culcasi
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • April 10, 1991
    ...also cites Molien v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals (1980) 27 Cal.3d 916, 167 Cal.Rptr. 831, 616 P.2d 813 and Vanoni v. Western Airlines (1967) 247 Cal.App.2d 793, 56 Cal.Rptr. 115. In Molien v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, supra, 27 Cal.3d 916, 167 Cal.Rptr. 831, 616 P.2d 813, the court held ......
  • Bro v. Glaser
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • February 24, 1994
    ...(g) of section 437c of the Code of Civil Procedure.3 An interesting variation on this theme was present in Vanoni v. Western Airlines (1967) 247 Cal.App.2d 793, 56 Cal.Rptr. 115. In Vanoni, the plaintiffs in graphic terms alleged that defendant had "so carelessly and negligently maintained,......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Investigating coverage
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books How Insurance Companies Settle Cases
    • May 1, 2021 a sufficient physical injury to support recovery for consequent emotional distress. For example, in Vanoni v. Western Airlines 247 Cal. App. 2d 793, 797 ( 1967), a commercial aircraft was negligently operated. The California Court of Appeal held that an allegation that plaintiffs “suffer......

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