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Infliction of Emotional Distress Cases Summarized

This page within Virginia Tort Case Law is a compilation of cases reported by the Virginia Supreme Court and summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of Infliction of Emotional Distress and the related topic of intentional torts.  For more information on emotional distress see the pages on Wikipedia.

Infliction of Emotional Distress-Cases

2012 Wyatt v. McDermott, 283 Va. 685, 725 S.E.2d 555.
On question certified by Federal Court, Supreme Court stated that Virginia does recognize tortious interference with parental rights as a cause of action and set forth the elements of such a claim.

2008 Super Value, Inc. v. Johnson, 276 Va. 356, 666 S.E.2d 335.
Infliction of emotional distress is not favored in the law. The standard of proof is clear and convincing evidence. In this business tort action plaintiff, as a matter of law, failed to meet that standard of proof. This tort is directed at prohibiting conduct intended to cause personal, emotional damage to an individual rather than conduct intended to cause economic damage to a business as was the case here.

2007 Ogunde v. Prison Health Servs., 274 Va. 55, 645 S.E.2d 520.
Plaintiff is a prisoner who alleged that defendant denied him medical treatment and refused to recommend that he be exempted from the grooming policy. Plaintiff failed to plead sufficient allegations to make out a claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress and mere conclusory allegations are not sufficient to meet the requirement. Instead, plaintiff must set forth specific facts.

2007 Almy v. Grisham, 273 Va. 68, 639 S.E.2d 182.
Grisham and other person received several anonymous, unflattering letters. Suspecting that plaintiff was the author, these individuals engaged a handwriting expert and provided to the expert confidential school files pertaining to plaintiff’s children containing plaintiff’s handwriting. Plaintiff sued alleging the intentional infliction of emotional distress and related civil conspiracy. During the course of the hearing on the demurrer, the trial court improperly took judicial notice of certain deposition testimony and therefore improperly granted the demurrer as to the intentional infliction claim. Court refused to recognize a claim for civil conspiracy to intentionally inflict severe emotional distress.

2006 Harris v. Kreutzer, 271 Va. 188, 624 S.E.2d 24.
Plaintiff in this case filed medical malpractice action against health care provider who performed defense medical exam pursuant to Rule 4:10 in prior litigation. Court held that medical malpractice action against such examiner could be maintained and that plaintiff had alleged sufficient facts to withstand demurrer, in that, plaintiff alleged what the standard of care was, breach of that standard, and resulting damages. Plaintiff also alleged claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, which was not properly pleaded. Plaintiff alleged that defendant verbally abused her, raised his voice, caused her to break down in tears, stated that she was putting on a show, and accused her of being a faker and a malingerer. That conduct, even if true, was not sufficient to rise to the level of outrageous behavior. Plaintiff further alleged resulting nightmares, difficulty sleeping, extreme loss of self-esteem, and depression. That did not rise to the level of severe emotional distress as required by the case law.

2000 Delk v. Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., 259 Va. 125, 523 S.E.2d 826.
Plaintiff sexually assaulted while she was patient in psychiatric ward. Plaintiff filed claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. In this case, plaintiff pleaded sufficient facts which, if proven at trial, would permit jury to conclude that defendants acted recklessly. Jury could conclude that defendants acted recklessly if plaintiff presents evidence at trial that defendants knew she may have been exposed to HIV but failed to inform her so she could have taken preventive measures to avoid transmission to her husband.

2000 McDermott v. Reynolds, 260 Va. 98, 530 S.E.2d 902.
Plaintiff’s action against former wife’s lover for intentional infliction of emotional distress is barred under Va. Code § 8.01-220 when conduct alleged would support action for alienation of affection which is prohibited by statute.

1990 Russo v. White, 241 Va. 23, 400 S.E.2d 160.
Plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that defendant’s conduct is intentional or reckless, conduct is outrageous, and intolerable, alleged wrongful act, and emotional distress are causally connected, and distress is severe. In this case defendant had dated plaintiff once and thereafter made repeated harassing phone calls. It is not enough for defendant to have acted with intent that is tortious or even criminal. Conduct must go beyond all possible boundaries of decency and be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized community. Court does not decide whether that element has been met but goes on to indicate that pleadings are insufficient as matter of law to meet requirement of severe emotional distress because plaintiff simply alleges that she was nervous, could not sleep, experienced stress and had physical symptoms and withdrew from activities and was unable to concentrate at work.

1989 Ely v. Whitlock, 238 Va. 670, 385 S.E.2d 893.
Plaintiff must allege that action taken for specific purpose of infliction emotional distress or that defendant intended specific conduct and knew or should have known that emotional distress would likely result.

1989 Ruth v. Fletcher, 237 Va. 366, 377 S.E.2d 412.
Infliction of emotional distress.Plaintiff alleged that defendant intentionally convinced him that she was pregnant with his child; fostered bond between plaintiff and child; caused plaintiff to pay child support; when it suited defendant’s purposes she told plaintiff that he was not father of child. Torts wherein injury is to mind or emotions are not favored in law. In doubtful case no recovery should be allowed. Standard of proof is clear and convincing evidence. In this case, there is no evidence that defendant’s conduct was intentional or reckless. No evidence that defendant set out to convince plaintiff child was his, to cause him to develop a relationship, and then take child from him.

1988 C. & P. Tel. v. Dowdy, 235 Va. 55, 365 S.E.2d 751.
Employee had difficulty coping or contending with circumstances of employment. Evidence insufficient to support finding that C. & P. intentionally, willfully, or maliciously inflicted bodily harm or emotional distress on plaintiff.

1974 Womack v. Eldridge, 215 Va. 338, 210 S.E.2d 145.
Cause of action will lie for emotional distress, unaccompanied by physical injury, provided elements are shown: (1) wrongdoer’s conduct was intentional or reckless; (2) conduct was outrageous and intolerable in that it offends against generally accepted standards of decency and morality; (3) there is causal connection between wrongdoer’s conduct and emotional distress; and (4) emotional distress is severe.

1967 Moore v. Jefferson Hosp., 208 Va. 438, 158 S.E.2d 124.
Defendant who was in charge of operating room refused to admit plaintiff and his physician to operating room. Cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

1950 Sanford v. Ware, 191 Va. 43, 59 S.E.2d 872.
Negligent infliction of emotional distress not actionable. However, if personal tort has been committed which will support action to recover some damages, then compensation may be allowed for mental anguish. Here defendant negligently interred body of plaintiff’s husband.

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Infliction of Emotional Distress Cases Summarized

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