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White v. Monsanto Co.

Supreme Court of Louisiana

September 9, 1991

No. 91-C-0148

Opinion

 [*1207]  Writs were granted in this case to review a judgment of the court of appeal affirming an award of $ 60,000 damages to an employee against her employer and a supervisory co-employee for intentional infliction of emotional distress occasioned by the supervisor's profane outburst while dressing down the employee and two other employees for not working as he thought they should. Finding that the supervisor's conduct, although crude and uncalled for, was not of such an extreme or outrageous nature as to give rise to a cause of action for an intentional tort, we reverse and render judgment for the defendants.

Plaintiff, Irma White,  [**2]  a church-going woman in her late forties with grown children, was employed in the labor pool at Monsanto Company's refinery for several years. In the spring of 1986, she had been assigned to work in the canning department for several weeks. Defendant, Gary McDermott, a long-time Monsanto employee, was industrial foreman of that department. On the date of the incident in question, plaintiff and three other employees were assigned at the beginning of the work day to transfer a certain chemical from a large container into smaller containers. When they arrived at their work station and noticed that the container was marked "hazardous-corrosive," they requested rubber gloves and goggles before starting their assigned task. A supervisor sent for the safety equipment. Shop rules required that employees busy themselves while waiting for equipment. One of the employees went to another area to do some work. Plaintiff started doing some clean-up or pick-up work around the area. The other two employees were apparently sitting around waiting for the equipment. Someone reported to McDermott that the group was idle, causing McDermott to become angry. He went to the work station and launched a profane [**3]  tirade at the three workers present, including plaintiff, referring to them as "mother fuckers," accusing them of sitting on their "fucking asses," and threatening to "show them to the gate." The tirade lasted for about a minute, and then McDermott left the area.

Plaintiff was upset and began to experience pain in her chest, pounding in her head, and had difficulty breathing. She went to McDermott's office to discuss the incident. He said he apologized to her; she said he did not. She went to the company nurse, who suggested that plaintiff see a doctor. Plaintiff's family physician met her at the hospital, at which time plaintiff had chest pains, shortness of breath, and cold clammy hands. Fearing that she was having a heart attack, the doctor admitted her to the hospital. Plaintiff spent two days in the coronary care unit and another day in a regular room, during which time she had intravenous fluids, had blood drawn, and had an EKG and other tests done. A heart attack was ruled out and the doctor's diagnosis was acute anxiety reaction, a panic attack. Plaintiff was released from the hospital after three days without restriction, but with medication to take if she had further trouble.

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585 So. 2d 1205 *; 1991 La. LEXIS 2133 **; 6 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 1338

IRMA WHITE v. MONSANTO COMPANY AND GARY McDERMOTT

Subsequent History:  [**1]  Released for Publication September 23, 1991. Rehearing Denied October 10, 1991.

Disposition: REVERSED AND RENDERED.

CORE TERMS

severe emotional distress, emotional distress, outrageous, intentional torts, employees, intentional infliction of emotional distress, cause of action, distress, desired, inflict, outrageous conduct, cases

Torts, Intentional Torts, General Overview, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Compensability, Arising Out of Employment, Causation, Exclusivity, Exclusivity, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Defenses, Intent, Employers, Activities & Conditions, Intentional Torts