Answer to MBE Question From December 3rd
(D) is correct.
Issue: Whether the father’s actions satisfies the elements of 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 father merely shouted insulting language across the fence at the neighbor. Insulting language absent a special relationship such as common carrier/passenger or innkeeper/guest is not considered outrageous conduct. Thus, the neighbor will not prevail in a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against the father.
(D) is correct because the father’s conduct was neither extreme or outrageous.
(A) is incorrect because a threat of bodily harm is not required to establish a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (though it may bolster one’s claim that the speech or conduct was extreme and outrageous).
(B) is incorrect because physical consequences are not required for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The injury element is satisfied with actual severe emotional distress.
(C) is incorrect because the zone of danger rule is inapplicable to an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. The zone of danger rule is used in determining negligent infliction of emotional distress.