Personal Injury Law
What is intentional infliction of emotional distress?
Intentional infliction of emotional distress, sometimes called outrageous conduct, refers to intentional or reckless conduct of an extreme and outrageous nature that causes another person to suffer severe emotional distress. The conduct complained of must be beyond the pale of decency such that it would cause a reasonable person to exclaim: “That’s an outrage” or “That’s outrageous.”
For example, the Washington Supreme Court in 2003 upheld a $60,000 jury verdict for intentional infliction of emotional distress in favor of a woman whose former live-in male friend continually harassed her with hundreds of phone calls after the relationship ended. Even though the woman had obtained an order of protection, the man continued a nonstop barrage of phone calls. The man called the woman 640 times at home, 100 times at work and called the homes of several men with whom he thought the woman was having a relationship. He also threatened to kill the woman. The Washington Supreme Court reasoned that this deplorable crossed the line into outrageousness sufficient to justify the jury’s verdict.
Another example of outrageous conduct to a reviewing court occurred after a car accident in Georgia. The plaintiff contacted the insurance company of the other driver who was at fault during the accident. The claims examiner allegedly began using a torrent of bad language and racial slurs toward the African-American plaintiff. The court found that the “abusive and obscene” language used by the claims examiner sufficed to constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress.