Existing Arizona law allows recovery of emotional distress and mental anguish damages in cases of property damage. The Arizona Court of Appeals has already ruled in at least two different cases that when a person sustains loss to property, that person may recover emotional distress damages even if the tortfeasor did not intentionally cause the distress, and even though the distress is not severe. Farr v. Transamerica Occidental Life Ins. Co., 145 Ariz. 1, 7, 699 P.2d 376, 382 (App. 1984).
In Farr, the court considered a bad faith claim against an insurer. Farr had suffered complications during pregnancy, and Occidental denied covered claims and failed to follow its procedures closing out claims. Farr sued occidental for bad faith, after which Occidental paid benefits owed. Farr’s financial damages ultimately consisted of attorney’s fees to bring the bad faith, and other alleged damages consisted of a loss of credit reputation. Id. at 5-6. Furthermore, the trial court instructed the jury that it could award damages for Farr’s anxiety, emotional distress, and embarrassment. Id. at 7. The Arizona Court of Appeals allowed Farr to recover emotional distress, anxiety, and embarrassment arising from “property loss” consisting of mere financial damages.
Although Farr adjudicated a bad faith claim against an insurer, its holding on the issue of damages is not limited to bad faith insurance cases. The Arizona Court of Appeals again endorsed and applied the Farr holding in Thomas v. Goudreault, 163 Ariz. 159, 786 P.2d 1010 (1989). In Thomas, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that a tenant could recover emotional distress damages from a landlord who had interfered with the tenant’s right to use and enjoy leased property:
The principle that once property damages have been established, emotional damages may follow is simply applicable in the instant case, since without question the alleged acts of the Goudreaults constituted an interference with the Thomas’ use and enjoyment of the leased property.
Id. at 166-67. Since the unrestricted allowance of emotional distress claims could open the door to fictitious claims, the rule set forth in Farr and Thomas requires that a person suffer a loss of property before the person may recover emotional distress damages. Also, the plaintiff must hold an actionable claim for damages apart from emotional distress. Farr, 145 Ariz. at 7, 699 P. 2d at 3838; Thomas, 163 Ariz. at 166, 786 P.2d at 1017.
In conclusion, under Farr v. Transamerica Occidental Life Insurance Company, and Thomas v. Goudreault, Plaintiffs are entitled to pursue emotional and mental damages where they have actionable property loss claims with damages independent of any claims for emotional distress. Further, expert testimony is not necessary for a jury to award emotional and mental distress damages. Testimony from Plaintiffs regarding emotional and mental distress damages is sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact for a jury to consider.