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Judge: Woman Can Pursue Emotional Distress Case After Partner’s Toddler Dies

August 18, 2018 - 12:28 pm
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TRENTON, N.J. (WCBS 880) -- A woman whose same sex partner’s biological daughter was killed in a New Jersey traffic accident has won the right to sue for emotional distress.

The 2-year-old girl was killed when a firetruck and pickup truck collided while she was waiting to cross the street with her family in 2009.

A lower court previously ruled that Valerie Benning could not sue for emotional distress because she had not shown a sufficient familiar bond with the girl, despite having been romantically involved with the girl’s mother for over a year before the accident and the girl had referred to her as Mommy.

Benning appealed and claimed the judge focused only on the lack of a formal civil union, or domestic partnership, between the women, which were the only avenues available at the time.

The two women were officially married in 2014.

On Friday, an appeals court cited a 1994 case in which the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the fiancée of a man killed in an accident on Interstate 80 could sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The court found that Benning was a de facto mother to the child and felt her loss as deeply as any parent.