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California courts have acknowledged the right to recover damages for emotional distress alone, without consequent physical injuries, in cases involving extreme and outrageous intentional invasions of one's mental and emotional tranquility. Where reasonable men may differ, it is for the jury, subject to the control of the court, to determine whether, in the particular case, the conduct has been sufficiently extreme and outrageous to result in liability.
Manuel Alcorn, a Negro truck driver and shop steward for the Teamster's Union, was fired when he advised his employer's foreman of his advice to a non-teamster employee not to drive a truck to a job site. Alcorn was reinstated through grievance and arbitration procedures and sued for actual and exemplary damages for the emotional and physical distress allegedly suffered. In a second cause of action, Alcorn alleged his discharge was solely because of his race and constituted unlawful discrimination under Civ. Code, §§ 51 and 52. The trial court entered an order of dismissal following the sustaining of a demurrer without leave to amend the third amended complaint.
Did the trial court err in entering an order of dismissal of Alcorn’s complaint grounded on an alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress?
The Supreme Court reversed the order of dismissal, holding that a cause of action for the intentional infliction of emotional distress was stated by allegations of defendant's status, the incident of his advice to the foreman, the foreman's shouting, "You goddam niggers are not going to tell me about the rules. . .," Alcorn's discharge, the particular susceptibility of Negroes such as plaintiff to emotional and physical distress from such conduct as defendants', the malicious intent of the foreman to cause plaintiff's physical and mental distress, and such distress by Alcorn, who sustained shock, nausea and insomnia. As to the second cause of action, it was held that the demurrer was properly sustained, on the basis that the concurrent enactment of the Fair Employment Practices Act indicated a legislative intent to exclude the subject of discrimination in employment from the Civil Rights Act.