If someone needlessly caused you severe emotional distress, you might wonder
if the law provides recourse. In the District of Columbia, emotionally
distressed victims may file a claim, but the bar set for a successful
claim is high. In order to prevail on a claim for deliberate infliction
of emotional anguish, you need to show three elements to the court: that
the conduct was (1) extreme and outrageous, (2) intentional or reckless,
and (3) causes you severe emotional suffering. See District of Columbia
v. Tulin, 994 A.2d 788 (D.C. 2010).
These are not easy elements to meet. In order to meet the first prong
of extreme and outrageous conduct, you need to demonstrate that the conduct
rose above “indignities, insults, annoyances, threats, petty oppressions,
or other trivialities.” Walden v. Covington, 415 A.2d 1070 (D.C.
1980). Basically, the conduct has to completely exceed any shred of common
decency and exceed any civil society’s limit on tolerated behavior.
If someone just ticket you off, you’re probably not going to win
Here are some examples of conduct that D.C. courts have found extreme and
- Repeated verbal and physical sexual harassment at the workplace
- Making false statement that caused someone to be arrested for theft
- Death threats
- Subjecting employee to loud, disruptive, and piercing noise throughout
The second element – intentional or reckless conduct – can
be inferred from the outrageousness of the conduct. Essentially, if the
defendant’s conduct rises to the level of extreme or outrageous
sufficient for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim,
you may not need to prove to the court that the defendant had a specific
intent to cause the plaintiff’s emotional distress.
You will finally need to show that the conduct caused you severe emotional
distress. Angst, losing sleep, and humiliation are not enough to make
a showing of severe emotional distress. See Kitt v. Capital Concerts,
Inc., 742 A.2d 856 (D.C. 1999). The severe emotional distress must be
“so acute a nature that harmful physical consequences might be not
unlikely to result.” Id. You do not have to prove actual physical
injury, but the hurdle to meet this element of an IIED claim is still