Intentional infliction of emotional distress

Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED; sometimes called the tort of outrage)[1] is a common law tort that allows individuals to recover for severe emotional distress caused by another individual who intentionally or recklessly inflicted emotional distress by behaving in an "extreme and outrageous" way.[2] Some courts and commentators have substituted mental for emotional, but the tort is the same.[1]

Rationale for classification

IIED was created in tort law to address a problem that would arise when applying the common law form of assault. The common law tort of assault did not allow for liability when a threat of battery was not imminent. A common case would be a future threat of harm that would not constitute common law assault, but would nevertheless cause emotional harm to the recipient. IIED was created to guard against this kind of emotional abuse, thereby allowing a victim of emotional distress to receive compensation in situations where he or she would otherwise be barred from compensation under the common law form.

According to the first doctrine articulated by common law courts, a plaintiff could not recover for physical injury from fright alone absent a physical impact from an external source ("shock without impact"), even if the fright was proven to have resulted from a defendant's negligence, with the case on point referring to the negligent operation of a railroad.[3] Even with intentional conduct, absent material damage, claims for emotional harm were similarly barred. "Mental pain or anxiety, the law cannot value, and does not pretend to redress, when the unlawful act causes that alone. Though where a material damage occurs, and is connected with it, it is impossible a jury, in estimating it, should altogether overlook the feelings of the party interested."[4] Courts had been reluctant to accept a tort for emotional harm for fear of opening a "wide door" to frivolous claims.[5]

A change first occurred in the Irish courts which repudiated the English railroad decision and recognised liability for "nervous shock" in the Byrne (1884) and Bell (1890) cases [6] In England, the idea that physical/mental shock without impact from an external source should be a bar to recovery was first questioned at the Queen's Bench in Pugh v. London etc. Railroad Co.[7] In the following year, the Queen's Bench formally recognised the tort, for the first time, in the case of Wilkinson v Downton [1897] EWHC 1 (QB), [1897] 2 QB 57, although it was referred to as "intentional infliction of mental shock". Wilkinson has been subsequently approved by both the Court of Appeal (Janvier v Sweeney [1919] 2 KB 316) and House of Lords (Wainwright v Home Office [2003] UKHL 53, [2004] 2 AC 406). Citing Pugh and the Irish courts as precedent, the Wilkinson court noted the willful nature of the act as a direct cause of the harm.


  1. Defendant acted intentionally or recklessly; and
  2. Defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous; and
  3. Defendant's act is the cause of the distress; and
  4. Plaintiff suffers severe emotional distress as a result of defendant's conduct.[8]

Intentional or reckless act

It is not necessary that an act be intentionally offensive. A reckless disregard for the likelihood of causing emotional distress is sufficient. For example, if a defendant refused to inform a plaintiff of the whereabouts of the plaintiff's child for several years, though that defendant knew where the child was the entire time, the defendant could be held liable for IIED even though the defendant had no intent to cause distress to the plaintiff.

Extreme and outrageous conduct

The conduct must be heinous and beyond the standards of civilized decency or utterly intolerable in a civilized society. Whether the conduct is illegal does not determine whether it meets this standard. IIED is also known as the tort of "outrage", due to a classic formulation of the standard: the conduct must be such that it would cause a reasonable person to feel extremely offended, shocked, and/or outraged.

Some general factors that will persuade that the conduct was extreme and outrageous (1) there was a pattern of conduct, not just an isolated incident; (2) the plaintiff was vulnerable and the defendant knew it; (3) the defendant was in a position of power; (4) racial epithets were used; and (5) the defendant owed the plaintiff a fiduciary duty.[9][10]


The actions of the defendant must have actually caused the plaintiff's emotional distress beyond the bounds of decency. IIED can be done through speech or action; if emotional stress, must manifest physically.[10]


The emotional distress suffered by the plaintiffs must be "severe." This standard is quantified by the intensity, duration, and any physical manifestations of the distress. A lack of productivity or a mental disorder, documented by a mental health professional, is typically required here, although acquaintances' testimony about a change in behavior could be persuasive. Extreme sadness, anxiety, or anger in conjunction with a personal injury (though not necessarily) may also qualify for compensation.[11]

An example of an act which might form the basis for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress would be sending a letter to an individual falsely informing the person that a close family member had been killed in an accident.

Pleading practices

In civil procedure systems (such as in the United States) that allow plaintiffs to plead multiple alternative theories that may overlap or even contradict each other, a plaintiff will usually bring an action for both intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). This is just in case the plaintiff later discovers that it is impossible to prove at trial the necessary mens rea of intent; even then, the jury may still be able to rule for them on the NIED claim.

There are some reported cases in which a plaintiff will bring only a NIED claim even though a reasonable neutral observer could conclude that the defendant's behavior was probably intentional. This is usually because the defendant may have some kind of insurance coverage (like homeowners' insurance or automobile liability insurance). As a matter of public policy, insurers are barred from covering intentional torts like IIED, but may be liable for NIED committed by their policyholders, and therefore are targeted indirectly in this fashion as deep pockets.

First Amendment considerations

The U.S. Supreme Court case Hustler v. Falwell involved an IIED claim brought by the evangelist Jerry Falwell against the publisher of Hustler Magazine for a parody ad that described Falwell as having lost his virginity to his mother in an outhouse. The Court ruled that the First Amendment protected such parodies of public figures from civil liability.[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b Cusimano, Gregory S. "Tort of Outrage". LexisNexis. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  2. ^ Hayden, Paul T. (1993), "Religiously Motivated "Outrageous" Conduct: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress as a Weapon Against 'Other People's Faiths'", William & Mary Law Review, 34 (3): 579
  3. ^ For English law, see Victorian Railways Commissioners v. Coultas (1888) 13 AC 222 (woman barred from recovery due to shock despite suffering a miscarriage); for a similar decision in New York in the same month, see Lehman v. Brooklyn City Railroad Co., 47 Hun (N.Y.) 355 (1888).
  4. ^ Lord Wensleydale, Lynch v. Knight (1861) 9 HLC 577 at 598; 11 ER 854, where a married woman unsuccessful sought redress for "slanderous imputation of unchastity"
  5. ^ Mitchell v. Rochester Railway Co. 151 NY 107 (1896)
  6. ^ see Bell v. Great Northern Railway of Ireland (1895) 26 LR (Ir) 428; also citing an unreported decision in Byrne v. Great Southern and Western R. Co. of Ireland.
  7. ^ [1896] 2 QB 248
  8. ^ "Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress -". 2 August 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  9. ^ Taylor v. Metzger, 706 A.2d 685 (N.J. 1998).
  10. ^ a b GTE Southwest, Inc. v. Bruce, 998 S.W.2d 605 (Tex. 1999).
  11. ^ "Emotional Distress and Defamation in Personal Injury Cases". Slappey & Sadd. Archived from the original on 29 October 2015. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  12. ^ Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988).
Bollea v. Gawker

Bollea v. Gawker was a Florida lawsuit in which Terry Gene Bollea, known professionally as Hulk Hogan, sued Gawker Media, publisher of the Gawker website, and several Gawker employees and Gawker-affiliated entities, for posting portions of a sex tape of Bollea with Heather Clem, at that time the wife of radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge. Bollea's claims included invasion of privacy, infringement of personality rights, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Prior to trial, Bollea's lawyers said the privacy of many Americans was at stake while Gawker's lawyers said that the case could hurt freedom of the press in the United States.Bollea sought $100 million in damages. In March 2016, the jury found Gawker Media liable and awarded Bollea $115 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages. Three months after the verdict, Gawker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and put itself up for sale. Gawker Media's assets, not including the namesake website, were subsequently sold to Univision Communications. On November 2, 2016, Gawker reached a $31 million settlement with Bollea.

Cause of action

A cause of action, in law, is a set of facts sufficient to justify a right to sue to obtain money, property, or the enforcement of a right against another party. The term also refers to the legal theory upon which a plaintiff brings suit (such as breach of contract, battery, or false imprisonment). The legal document which carries a claim is often called a 'statement of claim' in English law, or a 'complaint' in U.S. federal practice and in many U.S. states. It can be any communication notifying the party to whom it is addressed of an alleged fault which resulted in damages, often expressed in amount of money the receiving party should pay/reimburse.To pursue a cause of action, a plaintiff pleads or alleges facts in a complaint, the pleading that initiates a lawsuit. A cause of action generally encompasses both the legal theory (the legal wrong the plaintiff claims to have suffered) and the remedy (the relief a court is asked to grant). Often the facts or circumstances that entitle a person to seek judicial relief may create multiple causes of action. Although it is fairly straightforward to file a Statement of Claim in most jurisdictions, if it is not done properly, then the filing party may lose his case due to simple technicalities.

There are a number of specific causes of action, including: contract-based actions; statutory causes of action; torts such as assault, battery, invasion of privacy, fraud, slander, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress; and suits in equity such as unjust enrichment and quantum meruit.

The points a plaintiff must prove to win a given type of case are called the "elements" of that cause of action. For example, for a claim of negligence, the elements are: the (existence of a) duty, breach (of that duty), proximate cause (by that breach), and damages. If a complaint does not allege facts sufficient to support every element of a claim, the court, upon motion by the opposing party, may dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

The defendant to a cause of action must file an "Answer" to the complaint in which the claims can be admitted or denied (including denial on the basis of insufficient information in the complaint to form a response). The answer may also contain counterclaims in which the "Counterclaim Plaintiff" states its own causes of action. Finally, the answer may contain affirmative defenses. Most defenses must be raised at the first possible opportunity either in the answer or by motion or are deemed waived. A few defenses, in particular a court's lack of subject matter jurisdiction, need not be pleaded and may be raised at any time.

Dignitary tort

A dignitary tort is type of intentional tort where the cause of action is being subjected to certain kinds of indignities. Historically, this category of torts was often covered by the old English writ of trespass vi et armis.

Historically, the primary dignitary torts were battery, assault, and false imprisonment, as each claimed harm to a person's human dignity. A cause of action could be brought for battery, for example, even if no injury was done to the plaintiff, so long as the contact would be offensive to a reasonable person. Under modern jurisprudence the category of dignitary torts is more closely associated with secondary dignitary torts, most notably defamation (slander and libel), false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and alienation of affections. In some jurisdictions, the phrase is limited to those torts which do not require physical injury or threat of physical injury, limiting the class to only those secondary incidents.

The only non-intentional act classified as a dignitary tort is negligent infliction of emotional distress, although this is also sometimes classified as simply another form of negligence.

English v. General Electric Co.

English v. General Electric, 496 U.S. 72 (1990), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that state-law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is not pre-empted by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974.

Footsoldier in the Moonlight

Footsoldier in the Moonlight is the seventh album by American rock singer Donnie Iris, released in 1993.

Hong v. Facebook, Inc.

Hong v. Facebook Inc., Anil Wilson, et. al. was a gender discrimination and race discrimination lawsuit filed in 2015 by Hong against her former employer, Facebook, her supervisor, and 50 others. The lawsuit was filed in San Mateo County Superior Court by attorneys Lawless & Lawless.Chia Hong worked for Facebook over three years as a product manager and technology partner in finance. She was fired in October 2013. On March 16, 2015, she filed a suit against the company, alleging sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, race discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress among other charges. She claimed Facebook was a "hostile work environment," and that she was belittled, and ordered to organize social functions and serve drinks to male colleagues. She also claimed to have been asked why she didn't take care of her child. Hong, a Taiwanese American, alleged that she was excluded by coworkers because she was the only team member of Chinese descent. A Facebook spokesperson released a statement in response to the filing: "We work extremely hard on issues related to diversity, gender and equality, and we believe we've made progress. (...) In this case we have substantive disagreements on the facts, and we believe the record shows the employee was treated fairly." The parties stipulated to voluntary mediation before a court-related mediator. The mediation session was scheduled for August 31, 2015. After the mediation, the case was voluntarily dismissed by plaintiff Hong on October 2, 2015. Attorneys for Hong stated that the matter had been "resolved," and it is not known whether there was a settlement.


IIED can be an abbreviation of:

International Institute for Environment and Development

Intentional infliction of emotional distress

Intentional tort

An intentional tort is a category of torts that describes a civil wrong resulting from an intentional act on the part of the tortfeasor (alleged wrongdoer). The term negligence, on the other hand, pertains to a tort that simply results from the failure of the tortfeasor to take sufficient care in fulfilling a duty owed, while strict liability torts refers to situations where a party is liable for injuries no matter what precautions were taken.

Mark Shannon

Mark Shannon (born Mark Jackson Fullerton; August 4, 1951 – May 8, 2010) was a long-time conservative radio personality who lived in Edmond, Oklahoma.Shannon was born in Lincoln, Nebraska where he lived until graduating high school in 1969. After high school, he joined the U.S. Navy where he was an air traffic controller, training and working at bases in the Philippines, Brunswick, Georgia, and Virginia Beach.

In June 1973, after being discharged from the Navy, and while waiting to transfer to civilian air traffic control, Shannon attended broadcasting school in Minneapolis where he graduated "with honors". He began his first radio job in April 1974 at KUBC 580am, in Montrose, Colorado. Shannon used the air name Mark Stone while there. He left the station after six months and began at KWSL in Sioux City, Iowa. During his career, he also worked for stations in Amarillo, Texas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Oklahoma City.In 1995, Shannon reported on false information posted on AOL related to the Oklahoma City bombing, provoking the harassment of Kenneth M. Zeran, a Seattle resident. Zeran subsequently sued Diamond Broadcasting, Shannon's employer at the time, alleging defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court found in favor of the defendant.After being laid off in 2000, Shannon took time off from radio, doing substitute teaching, and working at a local golf course. He returned to Oklahoma City after a stint on AM news/talk station WLAC in Nashville.In October 2000, Shannon was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a slowly progressing cancer of the blood. He died on May 8, 2010, at his home in Edmond, Oklahoma with his wife Kris by his side.

Negligent infliction of emotional distress

The tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) is a controversial cause of action, which is available in nearly all U.S. states but is severely constrained and limited in the majority of them. The underlying concept is that one has a legal duty to use reasonable care to avoid causing emotional distress to another individual. If one fails in this duty and unreasonably causes emotional distress to another person, that actor will be liable for monetary damages to the injured individual. The tort is to be contrasted with intentional infliction of emotional distress in that there is no need to prove intent to inflict distress. That is, an accidental infliction, if negligent, is sufficient to support a cause of action.


Outrage may refer to:

Outrage (emotion), an emotion

Tort of outrage, in law, an alternative term for intentional infliction of emotional distress

Palmer v.

Palmer v., no. 13-cv-00175 (D. Utah, filed Dec. 18, 2013), is a 2013 federal lawsuit in which an internet retailer was sued by two of its customers after it billed the customers for $3,500 following a negative review. The retailer,, specializes in nerd apparel, geek toys, gadgets and office toys; it is owned by Paris-based Descoteaux Boutiques. The plaintiffs charged the company with violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In March 2014, the district court entered a default judgment for the plaintiffs, and in June 2014 awarded damages of $306,750. As of 2015, the Palmers continue to attempt to collect the judgment.

The internet retailer's charge to the consumer was based on an anti-disparagement clause of their site's terms and conditions.

The case led to a California statute prohibiting the enforcement of such clauses, and the introduction of the Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2015, a proposed bill that, since passed, has enacted similar prohibitions at the federal level.

Prisoner Transportation Services

Prisoner Transportation Services is a privately held company that moves prisoners from one jurisdiction to another in the United States The firm is based in Nashville, Tennessee and is headed by Joel Brasfield. It was established in 2001.The largest such firm in the United States, it transports more than 100,000 persons each year. The firm's subsidiaries include U.S. Prisoner Transport and U.S. Corrections. The companies operate vehicles ranging in size from four-person automobiles to buses that can transport thirty-five people.Since 2012, at least five people have died on private extradition vans operated by Prisoner Transportation Services, leading to a Justice Department investigation. An April 2018 lawsuit filed against the company alleges negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of 14th Amendment rights by a detainee held in a Prisoner Transportation Services van for 18 consecutive days.

Rector v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media

Rector v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, No. 303630 (N.Y. Sup. Bronx Co. 2014), was a New York Supreme Court defamation case. Andrew Rector sued Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees, ESPN and their MLB announcers for broadcasting images of him sleeping at a game at Yankee Stadium between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox and allegedly making defamatory comments about him. Rector sued for $10 million for "defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress". The case was dismissed by Judge Julia Rodriguez, who ruled that the statements made were not defamatory.

Shirley Sherrod

Shirley Sherrod (born 1948) is a former Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture. On July 19, 2010, she became a subject of controversy when parts of a speech she gave – that had been edited to cast her as racist – were publicized by Breitbart News, and she was forced to resign. However, upon review of the complete unedited video in context, the NAACP, White House officials, and Tom Vilsack, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, apologized for the firing and Sherrod was offered a new position.

Sherrod later sued Andrew Breitbart and co-defendant Larry O'Connor for defamation, false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In October 2015, the suit was settled out of court on confidential terms.

Smith v. Summit Entertainment LLC

Smith v. Summit Entertainment LLC, No. 3:11-cv-00348 (N.D. Ohio June 6, 2011), was a case heard by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, in which professional singer Matthew Smith, known as Matt Heart, sued Summit Entertainment. Smith asserted seven causes of action for Summit Entertainment's wrongful use of copyright takedown notice on the website YouTube, among which three were dismissed and four were ruled in Smith's favor. The case is noteworthy given that copyright 17 U.S.C. § 512 claims are hard to win, and the plaintiff's success was due to the combination of his persuasive story and convincing additional claims which complemented § 512.

Snyder v. Phelps

Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U.S. 443 (2011), is a landmark United States Supreme Court case where the Supreme Court ruled that speech on a matter of public concern, on a public street, cannot be the basis of liability for a tort of emotional distress, even in the circumstances that the speech is viewed or interpreted as "offensive" or "outrageous".

The case brought up the issue of whether or not the First Amendment protected public protestors at a funeral against claims of emotional distress, better known as tort liability. It involved a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, claimed by Albert Snyder, a gay man whose son Matthew Snyder, a U.S. Marine, was killed during the Iraq War. The claim was made in response to the actions of the Phelps family as well as the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) who were also present at the picketing of the funeral. The Court ruled in favor of Phelps in an 8-1 decision, determining that their speech related to a public issue was completely protected, and could not be prevented as it was on public property.


A tort, in common law jurisdictions, is a civil wrong that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act.

American Tort law covers civil wrongs. This is known as a tort. It can cover intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, financial losses, injuries, invasion of privacy, and many other things. Tort Law is a common law practice which means it has basic principles assigned to it.

Tort law, where the purpose of any action is to obtain a private civil remedy such as damages, may be compared to criminal law, which deals with criminal wrongs that are punishable by the state. Tort law may also be contrasted with contract law which also provides a civil remedy after breach of duty; but whereas the contractual obligation is one chosen by the parties, the obligation in both tort and crime is imposed by the state. In both contract and tort, successful claimants must show that they have suffered foreseeable loss or harm as a direct result of the breach of duty.

United States tort law

This article addresses torts in United States law. As such, it covers primarily common law. Moreover, it provides general rules, as individual states all have separate civil codes. There are three general categories of torts: intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability torts.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.