State Rubbish Collectors Ass’n v. Siliznoff
Supreme Court of California, 1952. 38 Cal.2d 330, 240 P.2d 282.
State Rubbish Collectors is the Plaintiff, Siliznoff is the Defendant. Plaintiffs lost and appealed.
Was the evidence strong enough to support the judgement.
One who, without a privilege to do so, intentionally causes severe emotional distress to another is liable (a) for such emotional distress, and (b) for bodily harm resulting from it.”
Judgement is affirmed.
State Rubbish believed that Siliznoff collected trash in their “territory”. Therefore, they claimed that Siliznoff owed them membership and payment for what he was collecting. They called Siliznoff to a meeting, threatened him, and forced him to sign promissory notes. Siliznoff testified that he would not have done so had it not been for his fright. Siliznoff did not pay the notes. Afterwards he was sick for several days and unable to work. State Rubbish sued Siliznoff for failure to pay and Siliznoff countersued. The courts address both instances at the same time.
Here, the court first states the rule for Intentional infliction of emotional distress and that they were going to apply it. They address counterarguments and make a holding benefiting the defendant. Here, the plaintiff intentionally caused extreme fright and they had no right to “adopt such coercive methods in competing for business. So, they are liable for Siliznoff’s damages.
This isn’t a false imprisonment because there are some questions as to whether he asked to leave or was threatened to stay. This isn’t an assault because the threat wasn’t imminent. Here, this is mental distress produced by their intentional conduct resulted in some negative physical effects.
Importantly, this is one of the first cases where the court recognized intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Slocum v. Food Fair Stores of Florida
Supreme Court of Florida, 1958. 100 So.2d 396.
Solcum is the plaintiff and Food Fair Stores is the defendant. The case was dismissed for failure to state a cause of action and Solcum appealed.
Did the conduct of the store employee cause injury?
The insult must cause “extreme emotional distress.” Often evidenced by harm. No reason to adopt the tort today
The facts of this case do not meet the objective reasonable standard. No reason to adopt the tort today. Judgement affirmed.
Plaintiff went to the store and asked for the price. The defendant’s employee responded rudely. The plaintiff was largely offended.
The court is asked to first consider whether or not they should adopt intentional infliction of emotional distress as an actionable tort. I believe they do accept it but in a narrow sense (this initial assumption is wrong, the court chose not to adopt the tort at that time). There needs to be an objective standard that the words were not only offensive but extremely harmful emotionally. The circumstances of this case lacks the evidence necessary to meet that standard.
Part of the reason why a physical response is necessary is to make the claim genuine. This is the first time the court heard a case about intentional infliction of emotional distress. Here, the court says that this cause of action is reserved for the worst of the worst. There won’t be a court for a matter of rudeness.
The conduct must be extreme and outrageous for the court to hear these cases. When hearing the facts of a case reasonable person needs to say “that’s outrageous!”. Here, there is no intent to bring about emotional distress. They would not meet the reasonable objective standard.
Objective is when you evaluate the state of mind of a reasonable person.
Subjective is when you evaluate the state of mind of the “actor”.
Harris v. Jones
Court of Appeals of Maryland, 1977. 281 Md. 560, 380 A.2d 611.
Harris is the plaintiff while Jones is the defendant. Harris won in trial court, lost in the court of special appeals and challenged that here.
Should the court adopt the emotional distress tort and if so, does this case apply?
There are 4 elements to impose liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
- The conduct must be intentional or reckless.
- The conduct must be extreme and outrageous.
- There must be a causal connection between the wrongful conduct an the emotional distress.
- The emotional distress must be severe.
Distress was not so severe. Special court of appeals is upheld.
Harris has a stutter, is self-conscious about it, and gets nervous easily. At work, he was mocked, mimicked, and disciplined several times which heightened his nerves and made his stutter worse.
The court looks at each element. Well, sort of. They address the 1st and 4th and they briefly discuss the 3rd. The first element is met without question, there was intent in his actions. However, the court determines that the distress was not severe, so they need not look at element 2 or 3. Part of their reasoning however for lack of severity came from looking at element 3. Because the impediment already existed and other factors could have attributed to the expansion of the disability, the causation was not enough to determine that Jone’s actions caused a severe change.
A lot of the time we look at “aggravating facts” to determine whether or not an action can be made. What could possibly have been seen as “extreme and outrageous” conduct? On Jones’s behalf, the fact that the boss is the one mocking Jones. There was repeated ridicule. Finally, the actions were ratified (no dismissal of) by GM. On Harris’s behalf, Jones was dismissed from work several times and had followed a supervisor home on his motorcycle. The setting is a factor, there are several cases where the relationships of the parties matter. If one party has power and exercises that power outrageously over the other party (i.e. plaintiff is “vulnerable”).
Parties that are seen as more vulnerable are more likely to see that outrageous actions were caused against them (children, the elderly, and pregnant women are seen as vulnerable).
Goes to the factors in the rule, it’s interesting that the court used the word “reckless”. Earlier cases have told us that the court does not say that recklessness constitutes an intentional tort. So, one might wonder why the word reckless is used here.
Why read this case? To show that even with seemingly extreme circumstances, it could still be found that there was no intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Taylor v. Vallelunga
District Court of Appeal of California, 1959. 171 Ca.App.2d 107, 339 P.2d 910.
Taylor is the plaintiff and Vallelunga is the defendant. Taylor lost in the trail and appellate court and appealed here.
Can one cause an intentional infliction of emotional distress on a third party and be held liable for those injuries?
The Restatement of Torts says “intentionally causes severe emotional distress to another”
Here, we are looking at the intent. Intention is defined as doing an action that one knows with substantial certainty will cause a harm.
No allegations were made as to the intent of the defendants. Judgement affirmed.
The defendants beat up the father of the plaintiff. Here, the plaintiff says that the harm experienced to her father was emotionally distressing.
The court agrees that party A can harm party B which has a direct result on party C. However, there needs to be an allegation of intent to harm party C for party C to collect damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Here, no allegation was made that the defendants knew that the plaintiff was present. Additionally, there was no allegation that the beating was there to administer emotional distress to the plaintiff.
Intent does matter. However, for a third party to collect damages, they need to show that the actions of the defendant were intended for them or that the defendant would know with substantial certainty that their actions would have an adverse effect on the party.
You can’t declare intent on the defendants if the plaintiff was not aware of the emotional distress caused. However, even if there is no intent to cause harm, a defendant can still be found to be liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress because of recklessness.
Torts are common law that are dealt with each state. Each state determines its own common law. Many states do not recognize international infliction of emotional distress as a tort.
The reason why most people can collect damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress is because another tort was committed. If you have a “free standing” claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, you will lose a case in jurisdictions where the court does not recognize it.
There are several reasons why the court may not recognize this as a tort. First, there are so many cases where this could be argued, and the court doesn’t want to deal with it. Second, it could be difficult to determine the authenticity of claims.
Takeaways from today’s lecture:
- Power difference between parties
- Vulnerability of parties
The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.