Doesn’t everyone? 😀 OK, maybe not everyone wants to sue for emotional distress. But a common query attorneys hear is, “How can I recover for all the emotional stress I’ve endured?”
A few different theories of liability allow for damages related to mental anguish. However, a cause of action also exists called “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” occasionally abbreviated as “IIED.” A somewhat recent case in the Florida Law Weekly Supplement laid out the elements quite nicely, as follows:
Florida law recognizes the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress as defined in section 46 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965). Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. McCarson, 467 So. 2d 277, 278 (Fla. 1985). To state a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, a complaint must allege four elements: (1) deliberate or reckless infliction of mental suffering; (2) outrageous conduct; (3) the conduct caused the emotional distress; and (4) the distress was severe. Williams v. Worldwide Flight Services, Inc., 877 So. 2d 869, 870 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004) [29 Fla. L. Weekly D1638a]. The Florida Supreme Court has defined outrageous conduct as conduct that is “so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency.” De La Campa v. Grifols Am., Inc., 819 So. 2d 940, 943 (Fla. 3d DCA 2002) [27 Fla. L. Weekly D1523a] (quoting Metropolitan, 467 So. 2d at 278).
Urrea v. Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Case No. 16-010273 CA 01, FLWSUPP 2503URRE (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., Miami-Dade Feb. 13, 2017). Rodolfo A. Ruiz, Judge.
In that particular case, a Target employee who had lodged a worker’s compensation claim sued a claims administrator for allegedly improperly delaying authorization of a hand surgery in bad faith. She maintained the delay was intentional and caused her “extreme anxiety and distress.” Citing to other Florida cases where plaintiffs attempted to sue for similar allegations, the court found the plaintiff’s allegations of mental anguish did not approach the “exceptional circumstances” required to establish IIED.
Generally, in the tort of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, to show that the conduct is “outrageous,” in Florida, a litigant must show that the conduct is “atrocious, odious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.” In Florida, the bar as to what meets this test is set very high. The test is also highly fact-specific. For example, one case of sufficiently “outrageous” conduct involved police officers displaying autopsy images and videotape of the plaintiffs’ brother and son at a dinner party and police station. Williams v. City of Minneola, 575 So. 2d 683, 691 (Fla. 5th DCA 1991).
Overall, stress, anxiety, and frustration is something that most of us feel on a regular basis, from daily interactions. But to recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the damage must be more than that, and the conduct causing it must be be truly outrageous — far beyond what is customary.
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