This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
The general rule applicable to contracts is that no recovery can be had for mental anguish caused by breach.1 Wherever the breach is not such as would naturally cause mental anguish, and the special facts by reason of which mental anguish is caused are not known, such damages are refused in accordance with the general principles applicable to damages, and not by reason of any principles peculiar to this form of damage.2 Thus if a telegram does not show on its face that its non-delivery will cause mental anguish and such facts are not known, no damages for mental anguish can be recovered.3 No recovery can be had for mental suffering and humiliation arising out of a breach of a contract by a bank to honor a check,4 or by a telegraph company to send money.5 If, however, the mental anguish follows naturally from the breach, there is a conflict of authority as to whether damages can be allowed therefor. Thus whether injury to feelings can be considered as an item of damage in a suit for a breach of a contract to send and deliver a telegram, the telegram showing its nature upon its face, is a point upon which there is a conflict of authority. Such damages are allowed by some courts5 and denied by Meadothers.7 In an action for breach of a contract to marry, damages may be allowed for mental suffering.8 The foregoing examples, while based on contracts, are practically treated as torts. .Recovery has also been allowed in breach of a contract to furnish a trousseau, for mortification and humiliation.9 Damages for mental anguish are also allowed for breach of contract causing delay in the transportation of the body of a near relative,10 or for breach of contract by an undertaker who, after agreeing with the parents of a deceased child to place its body in a vault, negligently sends it to another state.11 On the other hand, it is held that in breach of a contract to furnish a hearse, no recovery can be had for injury to the feelings of near relatives, even though it is known that no other hearse can be obtained.12
3 Harris v. Moss, 112 Ga. 95; 37 S. E. 123.
1 Wilcox v. Ry., 52 Fed. 264; 17 L. R. A. 804; Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Adams, 28 Ind. App. 420; 63 N. E. 125; Gatzow v. Buen-ing, 106 Wis. 1; 80 Am. St. Rep. 17; 49 L. R. A. 475; 81 N. W. 1003.
2 Sparkman v. Telegraph Co., 130 N. C. 447; 41 S. E. 881.
3 Sparkman v. Telegraph Co., 130 N. C. 447; 41 S. E. 881.
4 American National Bank v. Mo-rey. - Ky. - ; 58 L. R. A. 956;
69 S. W. 759.
5 Robinson v. Telegraph Co.
(Ky.), 57 L. R. A. 611; 68 S. W.
6 Western Union Telegraph Co. v.
Crocker, 135 Ala. 492; 59 L. R. A
398; 33 So. 45; Chapman v. Tele graph Co., 90 Ky. 265; 13 S. W.
880; Graham v. Telegraph Co.. 109
La. 1069; 34 So. 91; Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Church (Neb.). 57
L. R. A. 905? 90 N. W. 878;