Tort Of IIED: Learn How To Prove IIED Tort

What is The Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress (IIED) Tort?

The Tort of IIED/Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress (IIED) tort is a form of assault because it intentionally creates an apprehension in the plaintiff’s mind of physical harm.  The tort results from outrageous conduct that has none of the qualities ordinarily associated with the traditional torts, and it does not lie within any common law tradition. It is imposed to protect persons who have been subjected to abusive tactics of litigation generally, or in a specific instance.

Procedure to prove IIED Tort

Procedure to prove the tort of IIED is that the plaintiff must testify that he/she was subjected to conduct designed to cause and inflicting severe emotional distress. The defendant must have acted with “intent” which means some “evil motive” or intention but not necessarily intended to do injury—any “improper motive” or design is sufficient.

Example of IIED Tort

An example of a tort of IIED would be when a defendant maliciously prosecuted the plaintiff for a crime that he/she did not commit and caused serious emotional distress.

The tort of Intrusion Upon Seclusion

The tort of intrusion upon seclusion was created to serve as a remedy in cases where there has been some kind of unreasonable intrusion into the seclusion of an individual. It is similar to IIED but without outrageous conduct is necessary. The tort of IIED been recognized in a number of jurisdictions, including New Jersey and Connecticut.

Courts have disagreed on whether intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) should be abolished in favor of intrusion upon seclusion as a remedy for extreme emotional distress. Some courts believe that the two torts overlap and should be abolished in favor of intrusion upon seclusion to avoid confusion.

Other courts have reversed prior holdings abolishing the tort of IIED, finding that the cases did not address all aspects of emotional distress claims or distinguish between physical and mental injury.  Yet other courts have held that although they believe that the tort of IIED should be abolished, they are bound by precedents and thus must follow prior holdings legalizing the tort.

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Difference Between IIED and Intrusion Upon Seclusion

The torts of IIED and intrusion upon seclusion seem similar but from a legal standpoint, they have several differences. The first difference is that for the tort of IIED it is necessary to prove that the defendant was “outrageous”.  In IIED cases, courts have often ruled that defendants are not liable for causing emotional distress if the distress is caused by behaviors normally associated with the defendant’s profession.

The second difference is that intrusion upon seclusion does not require outrageous conduct as part of its definition.

Thirdly there is no requirement under intrusion upon seclusion that the plaintiff proves that s/he was deprived of a reasonable expectation of privacy. This is required, however, under the tort of IIED.  

In addition, intrusion upon seclusion incurs liability without actual damage to reputation and only requires a showing of emotional distress as opposed to severe emotional distress under IIED theory.

Issues Regarding the tort of IIED

The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress has many issues surrounding it from critical legal aspects to ethical concerns.  In some ways, the tort is an overly broad remedy because it casts a wide net in order to capture defendants who have caused harm, and there are no clear guidelines as to what kind of conduct would be considered outrageous. The courts also realize that the tort of IIED is subject to abuse by the prevailing plaintiff’s attorney who may not even have actual “emotional distress” to present, but may threaten to charge a defendant with the tort of IIED in order to get the case settled.

 In one famous case, an attorney threatened his opposing counsel with IIED and then dropped it, only to have the other attorney accuse him of this abuse.  

In addition, the tort may be used to stifle free expression by chilling speech which some people might find offensive or outrageous but not necessarily cause emotional distress in a reasonable person. The tort of IIED is also open to abuse because its requirement that the conduct is “outrageous” is difficult to define and thus often leaves considerable discretion to judges.  

The court in a recent case ruled that “outrageous” conduct may vary from outrageous behavior in one type of location such as a courtroom, and what is not acceptable conduct in this setting may be different than what is considered appropriate conduct elsewhere.

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Criticism On The Tort Of IIED

Finally, the tort of IIED has been criticized because it places an unreasonable burden on society.  The argument is that the tort of IIED should not be used as a legal remedy for emotional distress caused by fear and anger towards defendants who are generally within their rights to engage in conduct ordinarily associated with their professions.

The public at large has the right to criticize, abhor, and shun people, even when their conduct is constitutionally protected, and sometimes people may even be justified in feeling fear or anger towards those who are doing things that they morally oppose.

In the end, however, it seems inevitable that the tort of IIED will remain a part of our legal system for the time being. The concept of outrageousness is something that has been difficult to define because there are no clear guidelines as to what conduct can be considered outrageous.  

No set of rules or examples can describe every case because the human spirit is limitless in its capacity for being upset, and online users provide a great example of this since they often post opinions that are bound to offend others.  For now, the tort of IIED cases should make an effort to be narrowly construed and used only in cases where outrageous conduct has taken place.

What is the other tort besides iied?

The Tort Of Negligence

The tort of negligence is the traditional basis for recovery in civil actions based on carelessness and results in a verdict or judgment that obliges the defendant to pay damages for an injury caused by his/her conduct.

Negligence consists of failure to use such reasonable care as may be expected from an ordinarily prudent person who is under similar circumstances and conditions and whose conduct is motivated by like considerations. It has been defined as a lack of ordinary care to prevent a foreseeable injury when there was an opportunity and duty to take such care.

The essence of the concept lies in the failure on the part of the defendant to act reasonably under all the circumstances, including knowledge and power, for otherwise he/she would not be liable.

A negligence action is not predicated on any harm or damage to the plaintiff, but on the unreasonable risk created by the defendant which proximately causes an injury.

Behavior that constitutes a deviation from the standard of care and the result of which is an injury to another is termed reckless conduct. In order that there may be recovery for reckless conduct, it must be found that the actor failed to stop and think at the time he acted. The actor’s mind was fixed on some other object or result of his action and he did not stop to consider or protect against the danger in which his conduct would place others.

What Is Recklessness?

Recklessness is substantially the same as negligence except that there must be a conscious indifference to the consequences of an act or omission.

The plaintiff can recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) when the defendant’s conduct is so outrageous that it goes beyond all possible bounds of decency and to pursue a claim one must prove that:  

(1) The conduct must have been intentional or reckless;    

(2) The conduct must have proximately caused the plaintiff emotional distress; and    

(3) The emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff was severe.

The public policy permits an action in tort for interference with a business relationship only where one party intends to injure another or knows that injury is certain to follow from his/her conduct.

It is a tort to interfere with the serenity of an individual’s private life by impulsively exercising control or dominion over him/her so as to deprive him/her of his/her freedom and cause him/her emotional distress and suffering.

However, there are many other torts that can be used in a negligent infliction of emotional distress case in which the conduct does not rise to the extreme level necessary to support a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. These include physical abuse, public humiliation, breach of fiduciary duty, and malicious prosecution.

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A defendant can be liable for injury caused by his/her negligence even though he/she has no intention to cause harm if he/she knows or has reason to know of the risk involved in his/her conduct. If the defendant did not realize that his/her conduct would hurt another, he is not liable unless there was a special relationship between the parties such as parent and child.

The intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) tort, which is similar to IIED, but without the element of “outrageous conduct” that a plaintiff must prove in an NIED, has been judicially abolished in most jurisdictions.  A defendant can be liable for harm caused by his/her carelessness if he/she knew or had reason to know of the risk involved in his/her conduct.

An exception to the rule of negligence is when a defendant intentionally causes emotional distress, which has been termed intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). It is based on tort principles that have traditionally been imposed in cases involving physical injury and it can be found only when there is some kind of outrageous conduct.

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