232
MICHAEL J. LABBEE
III. We Can Work it Out: Moving Beyond the
Impact Rule
The impact rule has existed in Florida tort law for 119 years, but it was
adopted as a way to prevent outrageously speculative jury awards for in-
juries that were at the time too difficult to comprehend
.
44
But fearing the
“spiritually intangible” is an outdated apprehension that the judiciary should
not rely on as a reason for adhering to the impact rule. Society has long rec-
ognized the reality of psychological harm occurring; the historical problem
has been the inability to properly define the psychological harm
.
45
Inade-
quate definitions and understandings of psychological trauma resulted in
skepticism of the validity of these injuries. The evolution of society’s view
on psychological trauma can be seen through development of the recog-
nition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). During the Civil War era,
what we would label as PTSD today was seen through a lens of physical
harm. Over time, recognition of the psychological effects of extreme en-
vironments, such as war, resulted in today’s definition of PTSD
.
46
As the
psychiatric profession has evolved in its understanding of the nature of
psychological injuries, so too must the courts adjust theirs.
The ongoing problems with requiring a physical impact or manifestation
of psychological harm are fittingly described in Justice Pariente’s concur-
ring opinion in
Gracey
:
To continue requiring proof of physical injury when mental suf-
44
International Ocean Telegraph Co. v. Saunders
,
.
45 See W
ILLIAM
J. K
OCH ET AL
.,
P
I
: F
A
,
T
,
AND
L
AW
5 (2006).
46
Id
. at 5–7.
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