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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

French Plaintiffs Win Symbolic Damages for Distress Caused by Michael Jackson's Death

Via Kevin Underhill at Lowering the Bar, I learned about a lawsuit that French plaintiffs filed against Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's doctor, who had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter following Jackson's death by anesthesia overdose. The BBC reports:

Five Michael Jackson fans have been awarded one euro each by a French court for the "emotional damage" they suffered after the pop star's death. 
The case saw 34 fans sue Jackson's doctor, who was jailed in 2011 for the involuntary manslaughter of the singer. 
The court in Orleans ruled five fans had proven emotional suffering. 
. . . 
"As far as I know this is the first time in the world that the notion of emotional damage in connection with a pop star has been recognised," Emmanuel Ludot told the AFP news agency. 
"They have been subjected to ridicule and I am delighted their suffering has been taken seriously by the law."
Underhill points out that this sort of lawsuit would fail in the United States:

Under U.S. law . . . damages for emotional distress are generally limited either to the injured party or, in some states, to family members who actually witnessed harm to a loved one. So you couldn't, for example, bring a class action on behalf of all similarly situated Elvis fans, which the guy who sent me this said was his plan. Even setting aside the statute-of-limitations issue, you still couldn't do it. In France, this is apparently okay.
I have not been able to locate many details on the court's reasoning, so I am not sure if this sort of broad approach to emotional distress is commonplace in France.

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