Answer For The MBE Question From November 12th

(A) is correct.

Issue: Whether the manager’s treatment of the customer amounts to intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Rule: The elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress are: (i) defendant’s conduct must be  extreme  and  outrageous  transcending  all  bounds  of  decency  tolerated  by society;  (ii) defendant must  intend  to  cause, or must  recklessly  disregard  the  likelihood  of  causing,  severe  emotional  distress; (iii) causation and (iv) damages (actual severe emotional distress). Conduct that is merely offensive  or  insulting  is  not  enough  unless  there  is  a  special  relationship  or  known  sensitivity. Examples of extreme conduct include extreme measures to collect a debt (such as calling day and night or calling family and friends of  the  debtor),  a  misuse  of  authority  (a  boss  coercing  sexual favors from a subordinate at the threat of their being fired), spreading false rumors (e.g., that plaintiff contracted a terrible disease), the intentional or reckless mishandling of a corpse, sending plaintiff a sexual or nude photo and asking to meet with plaintiff, and the abduction of a child from one parent by the  other parent. Examples of a special relationship for which offensive or insulting conduct  may satisfy a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress include common carriers, innkeepers, public utilities and restaurants, and state owned facilities.

Analysis: Here, the manager’s verbal abuse and his disallowing of the customer to leave are likely to be found extreme and outrageous. Note the special relationship here between the manager and customer in which the manager is seemingly in a position of power over  the  customer. The customer actually did suffer emotional distress and thus he has a valid suit against the manager.

(A) is correct because under the circumstances here in which the manager berated, threatened and detained the customer, the manager’s behavior rises to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct.

(B) is incorrect. The customer’s status as a licensee concerns the store’s liability in negligence, not an intentional tort like emotional distress. As a licensee, the customer is owed a higher standard of care which will affect the outcome of a negligence analysis.

(C) is incorrect because physical harm is not required to recover on a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

(D) is incorrect because the manager did not have reasonable grounds for forming this belief under the facts given.  Moreover, even if the manager did have grounds for believing the customer shoplifted, his behavior would likely amount to extreme and outrageous.

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