To: Sean M. Anderson
DATE: November 22, 2013
Re: Cora Crowley, File No. 13-1003981
Under the New York Law regarding negligent infliction of emotional distress,
1. Does Cora Crowley (“Crowley”) show that she was threatened with a physical injury when she witnessed her stepdaughter, from fifteen to twenty yards away, get shot twice, once in the head and once in the chest, by Sarah O’Brien (“O’Brien”) as O’Brien negligently shot five shots in Sybil’s direction?
2. Does Crowley’s observation of Sybil’s death constitute the cause of her emotional distress when she had been hospitalized, diagnosed by a psychiatrist as clinically depressed, and had not return to work since the incident involving O’Brien shooting Sybil?
3. Is Crowley considered an “immediate family member” as defined in past case law when she raised Sybil since age three, solely as Sybil’s guardian after Sybil’s parents chose to abandon Sybil at a young age and, now, Crowley seeks recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress from observing her death?
1. Yes, Cora Crowley (“Crowley”) does show that she was threatened with physical injury because the nature of the risk and the distance between Crowley and Sybil when Sybil was shot placed Crowley in the “zone-of-danger.”
2. Yes, Crowley’s observation of Sybil’s death was a proximate cause of her emotional distress inflicted by the negligent act of Sarah O’Brien because, prior to the incident, Crowley had never been hospitalized, diagnosed as “clinically depressed”, or missed work like she has since the incident.
3. No, Crowley may not be considered an “immediate family member” to Sybil because, by virtue of public policy, Crowley was not Sybil’s legal guardian at the time of her death.
Statement of Facts Cora Crowley (“Crowley”) came to our office in order to “get justice” for her stepdaughter’s, Sybil Crowley, death on August 18, 2013. Client Interview 1. Crowley is trying to seek recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress under New York law. Id. Sybil was shot and killed by a hunter, Sarah O’Brien, while walking her dog, Isis, with her stepmother, Crowley, at Sterling Nature Preserve. Id. The facts below are background to the case.
Sybil was born on May 6, 2000 to Robert Crowley and Lavinia Swire. Fact Summary 1. A few hours after Sybil was born, Lavinia, Sybil’s mother, abandoned her and had not seen her since time of abandonment. Id. A year later, Robert and Crowley married and lived together as a family with Sybil up until October 2003. Id. Robert, at the time, abandoned both Sybil and Crowley, never officially getting divorce from Crowley. Id. Since then, Crowley has been the sole provider and parent of Sybil. Id. From then on, Crowley never received any help from any other relatives of Sybil. Id.
On August 8, 2004, Crowley filed a petition for temporary custody of Sybil. Custody Order 1. Since neither of her parents responded to the petition, the court stated that it was in the best interest of the child to allow Sybil to stay under the custody of Crowley until the custody order expired on January, 19, 2006. Id. At that time, she was due back in court to file for another temporary custody order or a permanent renewal of the order. Id. However, since Crowley could still put Sybil in school and take her to the doctor, Crowley figured that it was not necessary to renew the custody order and “spend more money” renewing it.
On August 18, 2013, Sybil and Crowley went for a picnic and a hike at Sterling Nature Preserve. Fact Sum. 1. On this particular day, they brought along Isis, the family dog. Id. As they were walking the dog on Dogwood Road, which is close to the closed authorized hunting grounds for hunters, Isis, after hearing shots fired, ran off the trail into the closed hunting grounds. Id. Sybil ran after Isis and Crowley, worrying that Sybil might fall and hurt herself, followed Sybil.…