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.