Monday, January 22, 2007

On intentional infliction of emotional distress

In the last batch of Virginia Supreme Court opinions, in Almy v. Grisham, the Court in a 6-1 decision overruled the order by Judge William Shelton sustaining the demurrer of some of the defendants on the plaintiff's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Judge Kinser was the lone dissenter, and she expressed the view that the majority opinion was inconsistent was prior decisions of the Court about the sufficiency of allegations of the severe emotional distress necessary to state a claim.

This is another opinion where it seems to me impossible to blame the circuit court judge, given the state of the law before him. The case law dealing with intentional infliction cases was mostly on the defendants' side, and the majority's efforts to distinguish the established precedents does not seem likely to make the law any clearer, as they acknowledged when they said: "A primary reason for the tort’s disfavored status is that because the prohibited conduct cannot be defined objectively, clear guidance is lacking, both to those wishing to avoid committing the tort, and to those who must evaluate whether certain alleged conduct satisfies all elements of the tort."

The Hook had this article about the decision.

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