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Elements of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress has four elements: (1) the defendant must act intentionally or recklessly; (2) the defendant's conduct must be extreme and outrageous; and (3) the conduct must be the cause (4) of severe emotional distress. Hyatt, 943 S.W.2d at 297. Although case law does not provide us with a precise definition of "extreme and outrageous," the test adopted by Missouri courts for actionable conduct is that the conduct must be "so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community." Restatement (Second) of Torts section 46 cmt. d (1965). The defendant's conduct must be more than malicious and intentional; and liability does not extend to mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, or petty oppressions. Viehweg v. Vic Tanny Intern. of Missouri, Inc., 732 S.W.2d 212, 213 (Mo.App.1987). "It is for the court to determine, in the first instance, whether the defendant's conduct may reasonably be regarded as so extreme and outrageous as to permit recovery...." Restatement (Second) of Torts section 46 cmt. h (1965). The court must determine whether an average member of the community upon learning of the facts alleged by plaintiff would exclaim "outrageous!" Viehweg, 732 S.W.2d at 213.

[7] Applying the elements for intentional infliction of emotional distress to the allegations in plaintiff's petition, we find that she stated a cause of action against INROADS. INROADS' behavior, as described in plaintiff's petition, was not just mean-spirited or boorish; rather its conduct reflected a calculated plan to cause plaintiff emotional harm. The alleged motive behind INROADS' conduct was retaliation for plaintiff's exposing misrepresentations by her immediate supervisor which falsely enhanced the performance of INROADS' St. Louis operation. All of the acts attributed to INROADS, taken together, were so outrageous as to be utterly intolerable in a civilized community. Plaintiff's petition stated a cause of action against INROADS for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. [FN1]

FN1. Some Missouri courts have extrapolated the standard for the negligent infliction of emotional distress to intentional infliction of emotional distress cases and required under Bass v. Nooney Co., 646 S.W.2d 765, 772-773 (Mo. banc 1983) that the emotional distress be medically diagnosable and medically significant. Hyatt, 943 S.W.2d at 297; see also Young, 664 S.W.2d at 265. If the Bass test is applicable to intentional infliction of emotional distress cases, plaintiff satisfied that test by pleading in her petition that the emotional distress she suffered was medically diagnosable and significant and required her to seek medical treatment.

Polk v. INROADS/St. Louis, Inc., 951 S.W.2d 646, 648 (Mo.App. E.D. Jul 22, 1997)


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