Understanding The Two Claims For Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress

Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is an intentional tort in which another person's extreme and outrageous act causes you severe emotional distress. The law allows you to sue for damages whether your injuries are only emotional or both emotional and physical. This may be the case whether the offender's conduct was intentional or reckless. These are two major ways in which IIED can occur:

Abuse of Power or Authority

The law recognizes that people in authority have a certain sway and power over their subordinates. As such, their actions can cause more distress over their subordinates than the latter can cause them. For example, a school principal's actions may affect a student more than the student's conduct can affect the principal. Therefore, people in authority have a duty not to let their acts affect other people's emotional well-being.

Consider an example in which a landlord, who obviously holds some power over you as a tenant, constantly berates and abuses you about your late rent payments. Suppose also that he or she (the landlord) is constantly threatening to evict you, destroy your property and is also spreading rumors/lies to the effect that you are a sex offender.

If these threats, outbursts and lies affect your emotional stability, then you have been injured by the landlord's IIED.  In this case, the landlord has abused his or her power, and you can sue him or her for the resulting damages.

Despicable Conduct

An outrageous conduct does not have to originate from a person in authority for it to cause you severe emotional distress. There are some actions that, irrespective of who commits them, are just plain intolerable and harmful to the general population of a civilized society. Of course, it is difficult to judge when an insulting or harmful conduct has met the threshold for being an IIED, but that is why there are judges and juries.

Consider an example in which a friend claims that the plane you are traveling is about to crash. Suppose you buy into his or her lies, gets scared, and even starts to hyperventilate – only to realize that it was a practical joke. This may be considered outrageous conduct, and it is understandable if you claim emotional distress from your "friend's" acts.

These cases are rarely straightforward. For example, a boss may insult a secretary by calling her names, but this doesn't meet the threshold for IIED. Thus, if you think you have an IIED claim, it's a good idea to run it by your lawyer first before taking any action.

To talk to a professional injury lawyer, contact a law office like Risley Law Firm, P.C.